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Reminiscing with the legends

AME MOTIMANE
Steve Kekana PIC. MORERI SEJAKGOMO
We rightly marvel at the skills of talented legendary musicians, especially when we see them perform live. Most people even go on to wonder how they become so skilled after so many decades in the music industry. Arts & Culture Correspondent AME MOTIMANE had a chat with three legends Steve Kekana, Babsy Mlangeni and Kori Moraba to learn more about their musical journey

Steve Kekana and Babsy Mlangeni are visually impaired and they recently ganged up with Kori Moraba, Johnny Mokhali, Soccer Moruakgomo and Amantle Brown to headline a show called Legends Live and the proceeds will go toward helping with donating mobility sticks to the blind and partially sighted.

It wasn’t just that but their show aimed to inspire artists living with disabilities and addressing their challenges in the music industry. The legends are able to go on stage and perform, an act that can only truly be God’s work. Given their age and disabilities, people turn to think that being visually impaired automatically means not being able to do certain things by themselves.

Award winning Babsy Mlangeni emphasised that being visually impaired has not been much of hindrance in his music career besides having people to help him walk around. He said that does not give him the necessary privacy that he deserves.

“I bet a majority of the people believe that we still don’t have it in us, that’s not the case.  We can still go on stage deliver as good as we did back in the day,” he said.

The Feel So Strong hitmaker, Steve Kekana told Arts & Culture that their performance over the weekend was meant to raise money, which will be used to buy walking sticks for the blind.

“When we talk about these issues we want people to understand that it is not child’s play,” he said.

Steve Kekana who lost his sight at age five, said technology is going to save the blind a lot of grief and he gave an example of advanced walking sticks that can inform the person about the street they are walking on.

The 60-year-old said he once had a blind manager who would travel by himself to their rehearsals.

“The stick doesn’t show us the way, it serves as an assistance so that people can recognise blind men,” he emphasised.  

Steve Kekana said they were in Botswana to try and get those white walking sticks for the blind.

“When I am here I regard myself as a Mongwaketse because Kanye was one of the first places I felt truly welcomed. The Keaikitse family in Kanye accepted me back then. I fell in love with that family and loved how Batswana gave their children names that relate with the surnames. I love their way of singing,” Kekana reminisced about his first experience in the

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diamond mining country.

He looked back at how he first came to Botswana in 1980 when he formed Steve Kekana and The Pages.

“We had hired a car and sound, so we hosted successful shows and everything was paid off after the success of that show. Botswana is a fundamental foundation of Steve Kekana. I am never disappointed when I am here,” he said.

Kori Moraba of the Sotho reggae fame said his band The Minerals was from Soweto and he recalls how they were booked in Botswana to perform at the town hall.

“We found Mpharanyane performing and we were told we had no permit to perform here. The same promoter talked to Mpharanyane to give us the platform to perform on stage because the gig was ours and we didn’t have money to go back home,” he remembered.

Moraba said by the time they performed the place became fully packed and they managed to make (the) money (they needed) to return home safely. “As time went by I got bookings in various nightclubs across the country,” he said.

For his part Babsy Mlangeni, well-known for his role in the Afro-Soul scene during the 1970s and 1980s, said he first came to Botswana in 1969 and at the time he had a hit song called Sala Emma. He started performing in the town hall.

“The whole place was like flies on rotten flesh, it was full. Those days the roads were still rough as we traversed through many places in Botswana like Palapye and Francistown. We made full houses right through and Botswana was like our springboard,” he added. 

Mlangeni, who is one of the founding fathers of the SA music scene, acknowledged that Botswana helped them to cross bridges.

“We bought our music equipment through the shows we held here. We became self-reliant and didn’t dependent on anyone,” he said. 

Obviously hours and hours of dedicated practice is one of these legends’ secrets, but there are more and more interesting stories especially Steve Kekana and Babsey Mlangeni, who did not let his disability stand in their way.

Regardless of how old they are and how long they have been in the music industry, these legends go on stage and take people down memory lane through the oldies.

“A lot of people think that our music is getting out of fashion and that’s a mistake they make, we are here to stay,” said Moraba.



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