Four-string guitarist Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Moipolai passed away on Thursday morning at his home in Mmatseta after a long illness, his family has confirmed. Ronnie was Botswana’s most watched guitarist on YouTube and Facebook as his videos had garnered millions of views.
One of his videos trended widely in West Africa and was mistaken to be a woman because of his headgear.
Ghana Broadcasting Corporation also mistakenly claimed him to be Ghanaian. The Accra-based TV station reported of a “Talented female Ghanaian guitarist; playing the unusual way”. Guitar Player magazine in the US described Ronnie’s ‘knuckle roll’ fretting technique on the guitar as ‘mind blowing’.
In April this year, NPR also reviewed Ronnie’s style of play. Andy Hermann of NPR wrote: “Moipolai’s technique on the instrument is strikingly distinctive, right hand strumming three strings in open tuning and plunking out bass on a fourth, down-tuned string. His left hand, meanwhile, dances across the fretboard, overhand, in a series of casually acrobatic moves, striking its strings with every part of his hand — fingers, knuckles, open palm.” In 2015 Ronnie
The video of the song was released last year with these words: “A happy time in Botswana was had back in 2015. It was great to meet up with Ronnie. It hadn’t rained for nine months and on that day we sang a song to make the rains come, ironically it started to trickle. A wonderful moment for everyone. It just goes to show what a little jam session can do with some positive thoughts.”
Ronnie used to go around the shebeens in Kopong and Mmatseta selling and playing his songs for P5 each. He learnt how to play a guitar from his now late father, has three brothers who also play the guitar.