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Talking Musika

Botswana Musicians Must Rename Themselves
By RAMPHOLO MOLEFHE (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Talking Musika








The arts, even as government has refused to believe it in the past 42 years, is one of the areas in which the country enjoys a good level of the  'comparative advantage' that the establishment economists speak about with careless conviction.

The arts is an area in which the country boasts the authentic indigenous culture of the Basarwa - and for my adopted wife's sake - the Bakgalagadi, Bakalaka, and several others who will sink into oblivion because they do not enjoy the favour of the Kings of the super tribes.

Culture policy, and everything that has anything to do with the arts, is addressed as an afterthought.  Art is treated in the same manner as athletes treat 'rubbing stuff'.  It is treated in the same manner as Domkrag regards the Botswana National Front.

Art is treated in the same way as Phakalane housewives treat tea, coffee or Chibuku, only as something to accompany more serious things such as making a fire for the president, passing stupid media laws and posing to the world as if the country functions as something of a democracy.

If we can persuade Radio Botswana, Btv and the ministries responsible for cultural development - The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism and the official Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport - that there is more to be gained from the exploitation of the cultural heritage of Botswana than there is from reliance on lifeless stones like diamonds, there might be progress.

I do not know any other planet where the people play the segaba like Ratsie Setlhako - for all his ideological indiscretions - or where the people speak out of their hearts in the style of Speech Madimabe.

I do not wonder that some, who have proved to be much wiser than our leaders, invite Culture Spears and every other traditional song and dance troupe to their most venerated occasions in South Africa, Namibia, Europe and America.

It is because

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of the telling uniqueness of the folk culture of the Batswana that the government compromises for diamond mines, even to the extent of compromising the ethnic rights of the indigenous peoples of the land, the Basarwa.  They are probably the most authentic cultural proposition - economic, political and social - that the Batswana would possibly market on the international markets.  That also has its own problems.  The Batswana, who are as good as British - or half American - as we speak, will want to impose their cultural schooling on the Basarwa and the ethnic groupings that have been able to survive on their own instincts and innovations, and to resist 'bolope'. It is implied, though not exhaustively argued in this contribution, that there ought to be a redefinition of culture in the country, and a reorientation of the cultural policy, its programmes and the structures that implement it.

The cultural redefinition requires open debate about the use of indigenous languages in the education systems, in Parliament, in the media and in every other forum, including that of the predominantly reactionary chiefs who thrive only on their allegiance to the ruling party.

That redefinition will persuade Lister Boloseng, Puna, Banjo Mosele and the others that they are not 'jazz' artists.  That definition can only diminish their sense of self, and deprive the larger world of the true meaning of their contribution.

Even as circumstance compels me to do so, I can only submit that these musicians are popular African artists. 

Put another way, they are 'African popular music' artists.
If there is a jazz artist in Botswana, it is probably Citie Seetso.  Lister Boloseng might be mentioned in that category.

The point to be made here is that the incorrect classification of the music - usually according to ignorant radio announcers and disc jockeys - kills that livelihood of the musicians.

There are as many ways to look at this issue as there are Batswana.  Let it be done.

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