Recently the owner of the once formidable local record label, Eric Ramco Records has been posting snapshots of what looks like the return of the versatile record label.
The outfit produced iconic traditional groups such as Machesa and Matsieng. Currently resurrecting in Mochudi in the Kgatleng district, Eric Ramco’s Facebook videos show that he has managed to reunite Matsieng.
This incudes the talented Morwa Tsankana who has one album under his name called Boswa Jwa Tau Letlalo. Although there is no sign of Ditiro Leero, no one can rule out his involvement yet because the latter has been performing with Matsieng in music shows around the country.
Despite that, Eric Ramco told this reporter that he was not yet ready to give media interviews. It is no secret the man who tried plying his trade in South Africa, but could not succeed, has a mountain to climb in order to beat Matsieng’s classic 2006 album Setswana Sa Borre.
Instead of wondering about Eric Ramco’s return, I decided to dust my album collection and peep into Setswana Sa Borre to remind myself of the record from the once fashionable genre.
It is no doubt that Tinto featuring Morwa Tsankana then known as Kgwasimo, was a hit song and most popular in the album. The music video was even well executed with legendary guitarist, Western playing the Tinto.
“Mmamphai o phailetse/o phailetse letlakala/golo moo gase motho/ o madi masesanyane/batho ba mohuta oo gaba phailelwe,(rough tranislation-Mmamphai has flirted/Mamphai has flirted with an imbecile/that thing is no human/He has think blood/Don't flirt with such kinds of people) ” is one of the iconic lines from the well narrated vocals by Morwa Tsankana.
Some of course liked Tinto for the raw and explicit use of vulgar Setswana words and the fact that traditional musicians hide under the phrase ‘pina ya Setswana gaena bosekelo’ to belt out vulgar language.
While even the best praise poets can commend Tinto and deservingly so, my personal favourite item from the album has always been a song titled Tshwana. Vocals are led by the unequaled Setswana lyricist, Ditiro Leero. This song is a rich Setswana ode.
The continuous phala (whistle) sound in the background reminds me of the setapa dance themed events I used to attend at our cattlepost in the outskirts of Thamaga village where I grew up.
“Ha gokabo go ikgethwa ke kabo ke ikgethela go nna phoko katla ka kgabisa saka labo Ramogole (rough translation-If I had a choice, I would opt to be a billy goat),” Ditiro sings in one of his verses. The beauty with traditional music is sometimes how they use arrogance metaphorically to put their point across.
I came across one line from Matsieng’s upcoming album where they sang about someone who had taken their partner.
“Ngwanyana yoo ene ele waaka, kemo rata ke ikgantsha ka ena, omo tsere (rough translation-She used to
Immediately it reminded me of one song in the Setswana Sa borre album called Mmabana specifically because they talk about someone who had lost their lover. I have always wondered why some Batswana decide to seek comfort in foreign love songs when they have their own here like Mmabana to help with closure.
Speaking of closure, it then takes me to the next classic in that album called Mmankoko. Mmankoko is an emotional song that also brings comfort and closure in a time of loss and grief. Even though Ditiro Leero had a bitter fallout with Matsieng and Eric Ramco while the album was still fresh on the shelves, there is no doubt that he did justice to this song.
Another notable mention from my favourite songs in this album is MmaTebogo. This is typical Ditiro Leero sound and what is even admirable is that the Mme mpeole ditedu hitmaker can go on continuously for the five minutes-long song of course with the backup of other Matsieng members such as Mmaerase and Roy Kgabuki.
Speaking of Kgabuki, I really loved his lead in the song Lesole where he talks about how he is abused by a materialistic girlfriend. Although he takes a swipe at soldiers in the song, the song is still relevant in today’s era where money is the centre of everything and has broken many relationships.
Setswana Sa Borre is a 13-track classic so there are worthy mentions like Khudutlou, mpheregetlhe and Ke feta ke bolela, but for me personally a song that had always hit the right chords is Joko. “Balotsana ba motse bare gake a betlega, Masutlha a motse bare gake a bopega, mme Motswana o rile monna gaa betlwe. Nna le wena baby yame retla kgaogaonwa ke loso,” goes the lyrics from a vocalist who is adamant that no one can stand between him and his lover.
Listening to this album brings a lot of priceless memories and while Setswana traditional music is no longer popular like during old times, Matsieng has engraved a timeless piece of art in Botswana’s music history books. Not to put much pressure on them since it’s been years and music having evolved and that, Matsieng’s next album should at least come close to Setswana Sa Borre if fails to outclass it. I don’t have a far-seeing telescope into the future to anticipate what could become of Matsieng’s upcoming album, but until that package leaves Mochudi and hits the market, Setswana Sa Borre remains unparalleled, unprecedented and quite a unique piece of art.