American Jazz group in Botswana for cultural exchange

Anthony Stanco and the Crucial Elements band
Anthony Stanco and the Crucial Elements band

American jazz group Antony Stanco and Crucial Elements is in Botswana for cultural exchange with local musical stakeholders and artistes.

The artists visit Botswana for the second time and this time around through an invitation by the United States (US) Embassy.  Speaking to the music stakeholders and musicians at Old Naledi on Tuesday, the leader of the group Antony Stanco said they were excited to be in Botswana for yet another gratifying experience.

He advised the local musicians to learn from others who came before them. He said in America they have music schools but not everyone was fortunate enough to go there.

“American jazz is a huge tradition. We have learnt from the masters,” he said. Stanco said they had mentors and they would not be where they are without their mentors’ input. He said every artist needed to have a mentor in order to succeed.

Stanco advised the stakeholders to use the internet to reach out to other artists out there. “Put yourself out there, make phone calls, go to their shows, interact and learn from the already established artists,” he said.

He also told the stakeholders that the other way of making money out of music is through teaching. “It’s good to teach and help out the community, introduce creative schools and make money,” he said.

Stanco said their group survived because they put music first before everything else. “In business the art has to come first, if you take care of music then music will take care of you,” he told the stakeholders.  He however indicated that they were struggling back in America and it was not easy for them.

“We are not rock stars but we have passion and we do everything for ourselves from managing our band to promoting our music,” he explained. He advised the local musicians to do the same and apply passion into what they do. One of the stakeholders that benefited from the cultural exchange of ideas was Bona Naledi, a youth-based non-governmental organisation that targets youth from eight to 35 years in the Old Naledi neighbourhood.

The founder and leader of Bona Naledi Salim Kegodile said they were excited about the cultural exchange programme and hoped to benefit a lot from it.

“We are an NGO that promotes academic excellence, healthy behaviour, participation in sports and the arts, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement,” he said.

Kegodile said Old Naledi is a township that faces challenges like youth delinquency.  “Bona Naledi aims to create a generation of youth who are well-informed about the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, and encourage the youth to adopt lifelong healthy habits,” he said.

U.S embassy representative, Naomi Makholo said the cultural exchange programmes are always good for Botswana because they involve the sharing of ideas. ‘‘It involves the community. We are here to interact, learn and share knowledge amongst ourselves,” she said.

For his part, a local musician Tomeletso Sereetsi told the American group that it was difficult to survive through music in Botswana. 

“Our economy doesn’t give us enough opportunities to make a living out of the arts,” he said. He told Antony Stanco and Crucial Elements that Botswana has a small private sector which is very much dependant on the government. 

He however acknowledged that some people are beginning to take the creative industry serious. Sereetsi appreciated the band for coming to Botswana to share their knowledge.

He also thanked the U.S embassy for bringing a band from a country where creative arts are appreciated.

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