Quondam rhumba king returns

Alfredo Mos has close to 20 albums under his belt including compilations
Alfredo Mos has close to 20 albums under his belt including compilations

After so many years of being inactive, Arts & Culture visited a pivotal player of the classic era of rhumba in Botswana at his Original Music Record Studio to hear more about his fully-fledged return to music. Rhumba’s erstwhile king, the legendary Alfredo Mos tells writer MOMPATI TLHANKANE this week how he will make his return

Except maybe on Radio Botswana, listeners hardly ever hear that “Nna e rile maloba ka utlwa ka Alfredo le setlhopha gotwe ba moopelo o monate, ke saitse fa ba na le melaetsa, ka bona ka ba utlwa ka dumela gore Alfredo Mos…”

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there was no place one would go without hearing the sounds of rhumba legend Alfredo Mos and Les Africa Sounds (basimane le basetsana ba setlhopha as they liked to call themselves). With his signatory lyrics that oozed powerful messages, Alfredo Mosimanegape may not have invented rhumba music in Botswana but he certainly helped set the bar for what a kwasa-kwasa/rhumba artist could accomplish. Since their time in dominion with other groups then like Kups and Bwasa Stars, Extra Melody, Nata Capricorn just to mention but a few, Alfredo Mos has been shown respect in a manner deserving of a legendary musician like he.

Some may have demoted his cassettes into the archives but when one gets to his studio in Kgale View, Gaborone all the memories of the Ipabalelo Tseleng days come back as one enters his studio.

Some of the old posters of his albums like motho and botshelo are still hanging on his wall as you make way into the studio. 

There are so many awards and certificates of appreciation framed on his studio walls. Arts & Culture greets him as the crew makes its way towards the couch behind him. The recording suite inside this rhumba temple represents history itself because so many hits were made here.

Mind you, Alfredo Mos is in the studio with legendary guitarist Kapenda Katuta who needs no introduction in the rhumba world. There are stacks of old CDs on a music stand not far from Alfredo Mos’ guitar. There is also a grand keyboard next to him but his concentration is on the screen next to him.

One of my colleagues recognises that he still uses one of the world’s most powerful music creation software packages, Cubase as opposed to FL studio digital workstation, he briefly responds, “I feel that FL Studio is amateurish, may be it will get there in the next few years.  I prefer this at professional level.”

He quickly emphasises that he has never retired as some people may think, but his return to music was most likely halted by his engagements in music administration over the last decade.  While many would exasperatedly disagree with him, the Mafelo A Beke hitmaker says he will continue to pull it off because he already returned to the fold after the release of his album called Selabe Se Tla Le... late last year.

“Besides three or so compilations, Selabe Se Tla Le... is my 15th album. This record is not different from the past ones because as an artist you can never run away from your signature. My sound will always come out,” he said. Alfredo Mos also said he prefers to stick to his lyrics which are about advice and positive messages. He said he had worked with many people including Patrick Mangasa, Kudzi and Tshenolo amongst others.

He is also quick to reveal that today’s social media inspired the title track.

“In social settings people no longer interact, but they are always on the phone,” he said.  Alfredo Mos admitted that it was unfortunate the album was never distributed properly because he had an accident on the day he was supposed to release it in Francistown last year.

“Even though we have a challenge with our distribution channels it has pushed nevertheless. Even if I take copies to a place like Maun for example I still return with a lot of CDs because shops are no longer available to sell our music,” he said.

Alfredo Mos says Chinese shops really pushed their CDs before the government restricted the latter’s licences. Commenting on distribution and how music has changed, Alfredo Mos said he still has not realised the purpose of releasing singles. “Music is a business, in Botswana we have not embraced technology that much so our songs end up being pirated through platforms like WhatApps. They listen to these songs in their cars as they go to our shows and in most cases they stay outside the venue while an artist is performing inside,” he expressed his concern.

Alfredo Mos said the recording industry has problems because it is self-funded.

“As artists we raise money to record but we overcome aspects like distribution, promotion and marketing,” he said.

Looking back, Alfredo Mos said they were better because they released two products being a cassette and a CD. “Cassettes really moved fast but CDs were slow. So CDs had never really caught that momentum we had with cassettes,” Alfredo Mos revealed.

He said they are surrounded by so much technology thus it is hard to survive in the YouTube era. He also attributes the fall of the industry in the performing arts to social media. “Unlike then, people easily moved around venues.  This affects numbers in our shows because in the past a person would stay in one place till the morning as they return home with public transport,” he said.  Even though many believe that kwasa-kwasa’s time is gone, Alfredo Mos said the advantage with the genre is live music.

“On radio, taste is different because some don’t play kwasa-kwasa, but performancewise we will always rise above the rest,” he said with confidence. Alfredo Mos added that in December he went on tour and therefore people should expect to see him more on stage even though it would not be on a regular basis. “I don’t have pressure to do music festivals because there are some other things I am engaged in,” he admits.

The former Botswana Music Union president said he is an open-minded artist therefore he is willing to work with anyone.

“People have expressed interest in working with me,” he said.

He also revealed that Original Music Records is ready to work with any artist of any genre.

Even though there were rumours of him throwing in the towel, Alfredo Mos is finding it hard to say farewell to the music life. “A musician never retires. There are a lot of people who died on the stage and even some of our recently departed legends were still active,” he said. 

Musicians like Alfredo Mos have dedicated their careers to entertaining their fans and have a desire to entertain so it is always a great opportunity to catch them live while rhumba still rumbles.

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