Following a solid showing at the internationally acclaimed Bushfire Festival in the Kingdom of eSwatini in May 2019, Sereetsi & The Natives is back home.
They return from Nairobi, Kenya, where they wowed music lovers with their unique brand of the four-string guitar-driven contemporary folk jazz. Testimony to Sereetsi & The Natives’ growing international profile, the Kenyan outing came a few days after playing the Whitsun Heritage Festival in Hungary on June 9.
“Nairobi was awesome! Hearing the crowd singing along to our Setswana lyrics and even crying ‘we want more’ at the end of our set, was the best feeling ever,” the band’s frontman, Tomeletso Sereetsi told Arts & Culture.
He said although the act played a two-hour, 20 minutes set, the live music heads that patronised J’s Westlands, which is one of Nairobi’s trendiest joints, still called for more.
“We had to do an encore! We certainly would be back in Nairobi,” Sereetsi added.
Sereetsi & The Natives was booked to play the popular Thursday Nite Live @ J’s, a show curated by Roots International and hosted by the trendy venue. Interestingly, Sereetsi played with an all-Kenyan backing band.
“There are natives everywhere. It’s a common practice on the international scene. I have played in a similar fashion in Sweden, Namibia and South Africa in the past.
It makes costs manageable, especially for shows that do not have major sponsors. It also makes for cultural exchange.
Although the musicians I played with had not heard my music before we met, they pulled it off beautifully after three days of rehearsals,” Sereetsi revealed.
The Thursday Nite Live performance was preceded by a collaborative show titled Artistic Encounters curated by well-known author Zukiswa Wanner and sponsored by German organisation, Goethe Institute.
“I am thankful to Zukiswa for the booking. We met last year when I performed at the Ake Arts & Book Festival in Lagos, Nigeria last year,” Sereetsi related. The Artistic Encounters series features two artists from different artistic disciplines working on a new work of art, which they then perform in front of an intimate audience.
Sereetsi brought his four-string guitar and his storytelling-driven vocal delivery to the collaboration with Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, a great Kenyan poet and author.
“We had a wonderful show with my co-star and it was just the two of us on stage. We had to put together a new and compelling one-hour show of poetry and music in two days,” a star himself, Sereetsi waxed lyrical.
Sereetsi said that he was happy that the Natives’ profile as an international act was steadily growing.
He also said it was one of the things he set out to achieve when he decided to enter the recording industry. Sereetsi said he was happy that the industry seemed to be responding positively to The Native sound.
Some of Sereetsi & The Natives’ international performances to date include a stopover in Chicago, USA, dates in Stockholm, Sweden and a showing at Planetta World Music Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden (2016). Sereetsi & The Natives have also starred at Ake Arts & Book Festival, Lagos, Nigeria (2018), Sesolo Festival in Mozambique (2018) and in South Africa; the Moshito Street Festival (2018), Mahika Mahikeng Jazz Festival (2018, 2016 and 2015), Kgalagadi Jazz Festival (2016 and 2017) and the Cultural Calabash Fest (2015). The act has also played the International Jazz Day Concerts in Namibia (April 2019) and further embarked on a 10-date tour of South Africa in 2016.
In Botswana, Sereetsi & The Natives have headlined major live music festivals and continue to maintain a busy corporate gig schedule. The act headlined the Gaborone International Music and Culture Week in August 2016 with US smooth jazz star, Jonathan Butler, and returned in 2018 alongside Musiq Soulchild. In 2017, Sereetsi collaborated with Zambian star, Mumba Yachi and South African bassist and singer AusTebza in a project called Kgalagadi Soul that played festivals in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Gaborone, Mafikeng and Durban. Sereetsi is also considered a pioneer on Botswana’s cultural landscape.
His 83-page guitar instructional book/CD on his native folk guitar tradition entitled The Solo Four String Guitar of Botswana is a ground-breaking first. Sereetsi has embarked on a folk guitar workshop tour covering 15 towns in Botswana. He taught Botswana folk music through an artist residency at Harryda School of the Arts in Gothenburg in 2016. In 2015, he presented a workshop at an international music conference organised by the International Council of Traditional Music (ICTM) at the University of Kwazulu Natal, Durban, South Africa. As part of the Kgalagadi Soul collective, he has presented on his unique four-string guitar style at University of Wits School of Music and the Tshwane School of Music.