The Momo I knew!


I leant with great shock and sadness early this week that one of Botswana’s musical icons, Momo, passed on this past Monday.

As one of the people who had met and interviewed Momo in my past life as a newspaper scribe and eventually took our relationship beyond the newsroom, I felt the urge to jot down this piece and share with you my experience with this humble but much celebrated music legend. Sometime in the summer of 2001 the then Monitor newspaper Editor, Gideon Nkala, requested me to hold fort for Morongwa Phala (now Morongwa Phala- Goodwill) in coordinating the entertainment section, Showtime. Phala- Goodwill was on leave for a three week period. By then I was a stringer on the sports section and a third year student at the University of Botswana. Since I had a passion for the entertainment beat as well I accepted the challenge.

My first point of call was to strategise on how I was going to run my show as the entertainment section coordinator. The first step was for me to map up a possible line up of stories (especially lead stories) for the three-week stint I would be taking care of the beat. Immediately I put pen to paper to start on my list, three possible interviews came to my mind. First was Momo because his debut album that featured what went on to be his all-time hit song Oule had just been released and was raving the airwaves countrywide. Second was an up, close and personal interview with the late South African Brown Matsime (may his soul rest in peace) of the Selimathunzi fame. By that time he was a regular at local gigs and the intention of the interview was to, apart from profiling him, understand what attracted him to the Gaborone night life. The third one was Peter “Bisto” Maunge of the Bisto Mari fame because his album was doing well in the market though released a year earlier in 2000.  

It did not take me long before I made up my mind on who would be first and for sure I settled on  Momo. This was because Momo was hot property in the music industry by then and his Oule hit was an irresistible piece of mastery. I could not wait to capture the story behind his debut album named “In African Renaissance” and in particularly the message behind his all-time hit Oule since it was sung in French. Again, the knowledge that the interview was his first since the release of the album gave me more reason to pursue the Momo story and break it out to the world. And that I did with impeccable excellence! By the end of the year the album won double awards at the Botswana Music Union (BOMU) Awards.

Anyway, after Momo’s interview I (together with the late Mmegi photographer Steve Molebatsi) then did the Brown Matsime life story over a pot of cow tripe (mogodu) at a flat in Maruapula and later on I did Bisto’s as well through the phone. 

Born Sayd Mohamed in the Islands of Comoros in 1962, Momo was a humble, down to earth and well-kept gentleman who fell in love with Botswana from the moment he sat foot in the country. He went on to make Botswana his second home because he then settled here and produced his music from the terraces of Gaborone Sun (Now Avani Hotel) where he was a resident entertainer to the hotel patrons. His love for the country and its people led to Momo eventually entering into holy matrimony with a Molepolole lass and they were blessed with two daughters.

He cut his teeth as an entertainer in 1991 in the Sun International Group starting off at his native Comoros before coming down south to Mmabatho Sun, Molopo Sun and eventually Gaborone Sun which by then was Botswana’s premiere destination in so far as hotel entertainment was concerned. In 2006 Momo was nominated for an internal music award in his native country of the Comoros in an event which was held in Paris, France. I bumped into him around town and he could not hide his excitement about the nomination. I never got to know how the ceremony went because we lost contact for a long time until about a year ago, when we met and had a brief chat where we promised each other that we would find time to sit and catch up. This did not happen until I heard the news of his death early this week. Indeed procrastination is the thief of time!

The world and Botswana especially will miss his magical touch of the key board together with his melodious and golden voice which they got accustomed to through his illustrious  24-year career (15 of which he was based in Botswana) as he belted out hit after hit to a cheerful crowd enjoying happy hour assortments. Indeed his legacy will live on despite his departure. As the saying goes- “A man is never dead until all those who were around him are also dead.”


Robala ka kagiso Mokwena! May his soul rest in eternal peace!

Editor's Comment
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