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Uncle John Selolwane: A self-made legend

Without doubt Uncle John Selolwane needs no introduction in the music circles, he is among the pioneers who crafted the local music industry – his emphasis on Jazz.

He knows America more than the Americans; he performed at the Grammy Awards alongside Stevie Wonder in 1988, he co-authored Sarafina Film with Bra Hugh Masekela; he has performed for some of Africa’s respected Statesmen in Jomo Kenyatta, Haile Selassie, Kenneth Kaunda, and Julius Nyerere among others. He also performed at the official opening of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea that came to be known as Games of the XXIV Olympiad, WeekendLife Editor DAVE BAAITSE unlocks part of this history, the life of a living superman and self made musician.


Having lost his son almost a month back, Uncle John is still a grieving man; but despite the circumstances he welcomes us at his Broadhurst Home in the Capital Gaborone with a smile, as old as he is now he is capable of bending one’s ear with history and he is up to date with current affairs. An unfortunate incident in which he mysteriously lost his son indisputably broke his heart, age aside; he looked a bit pale compared to the last time I saw him perform at Botswana Craft.

 

He constantly lights his cigarettes in what appeared like a stress relief strategy but his narration of events from growing up staying with his parents in the then Rhodesia currently Zimbabwe to becoming a hero he is, was well articulated and put in a more logical manner to the extent that he still recalls the dates of events as far back as 1950.


Uncle John Selolwane is the son of the late Blackie Selolwane, a former sportsman who played for the Bechuanaland II where he even broke his leg, that’s probably where the renowned Zebras skipper Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane got his mojo. Blackie was also a recording artist in the early 1950’s playing a saxophone and by extent a politician who kept close ties with the likes of the late Mpho Motsamai and KT Motsete.


A visually impaired Uncle John as he prefers to be called strums his most favourite Yamaha guitar in a very low key, one could tell from his facial expression the intimacy he has with this guitar. It was at this particular juncture that his sweetheart served us some breakfast and Uncle John was deep in thought. Strumming it for the second time much lower this time, Uncle John recalls the events of 1957 as a young man of eight years when he was visiting Rodeport Eye Hospital in South Africa, this is where he learnt his first instrument being the Pennywhistle and met veteran Johannes "Spokes" Mashiyane who is regarded as one of the greatest pennywhistle artists who graced the South African kwela music scene from the 1950s to the 1970s.


During this time he was living with his grandparents in South Rhodesia where he did his studies. At the age of ten he started playing the guitar and was regarded as the youngest guitarist player at Bulawayo. “My first guitar that I personally owned, I made it at a carpentry shop at a cultural centre in MacDonald between 1961 and 1962. It used to be displayed there after they turned the place into a museum. It was just a simple Jazz acoustic guitar,” he recalls.


According to Uncle John Selolwane, he then met up with a recording artist, Naison Seckiey from northern Harare and joined African Jazz Giants. This was at a more critical time when the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation broke, he was then engaged by Kenneth Kaunda by virtue of being his friend and having lived under one roof for some time. He joined TP OK Jazz band under the direction of François Luambo Luanzo Makiadi, a major figure in twentieth century Congolese music, and African music in general. He is widely referred to as Franco Luambo or, simply, Franco De Mi Amor. They frequently played at Valley Hotel in the Township of Bulawayo, situated in Mzilikazi. 


In the year 1963, he was tasked together with the band to play at political campaigns and meetings. As he recalls from the back of his strumming melodies, they performed from Livingstone to Nyasaland. In between playing at the campaigns, they enjoyed playing at different night clubs across the continent.


His eye sight deteriorated and he had to leave school in Bulawayo, he then focused on music as a profession. “You know Dave with music you don’t have to see, you have to feel. It is not the eyes that you need much”, he said. He bought his first guitar, a German made Hofner Electric guitar. One of his guitars was stolen in a break in after a car accident and it was a Kay, made in England.


He currently has in his collection about nine top class guitars at his home in Broadhurst including amongst other brands the Ebeneezer guitars and The Fender Mustang among other brands. He also owns special made Sadowsky Guitars Limited, an American high-end guitar, manufacturer in Long Island City, New York. He also owns a D'addario and a Yamaha which he used to endorse. He also has a saxophone which he can play pretty well among his instruments.


He played an instrumental part when the True Tones band was formed around 1970. They managed to break the ice performing in white dominated five star hotels but he recalls they used the back door. This is where Uncle John Selolwane met renowned names in the music circles such as Petula Clark, an English singer, actress and composer whose career has spanned seven decades. He also met Joane Palomo, a classical singer and performed together.


In 1981 he joined the group African Jazz where he played Bunny Machabane, Khipi Mooketsi, Danny Mpale, The late Thandi Klassen, Busi Mhlongo, Ausi Maggie Thipe, Ben Masinga and Gil Mathews who is now based in Sweden.  Uncle John Selolwane will be turning 72 years this year and he confessed that he has no solo project under his belt. But despite the age, this is something that he is looking forward to working on. This is the man who produced Mama Africa, the late Miriam Makeba.

 

Selolwane with Bra Hugh Masekela wrote the Film Sarafina. “I made Masekela what he is when he came to Africa, he couldn’t go to South Africa but I was”, he said. He also played with Soul Brothers, Sipho Gumede and Buddy Gay from Chicago.  He recalls that his role models were the Dambe Brothers; these are the guys that made him. He started with their school choir and grew close with Amos Dambe who became the first Motswana Ambassador to United States. He says when he finally came to Botswana he found artists like Bra Zakes Ngwaze and formed the group Golden Rhythm Crooners with people like Champion Banda and Dorothy Masuka. 


Uncle John Selolwane has travelled the world but deep down he is a very disappointed man. He feels the same industry that he crafted has rejected him; they have failed to honour and recognise him. He is currently battling with his sight and rarely does public performances. With his achievements to date Uncle John Selolwane deserves a Naledi Ya Sechaba award. “Thanks to my wife, I don’t know where I will be right now”, he closed with a heart breaking statement before he offered us a cup of coffee and sandwiches.

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WeekendLife

Fastjet Zimbabwe launches Vic Falls – Maun route

28th June 2022
fastjet

Fastjet Zimbabwe, the award-winning value-based airline, this week announced that effective Thursday, 30 June 2022, the airline will introduce a new service between Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Maun in Botswana.



The new route is scheduled to operate four (4) times a week on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Fastjet will operate the route using a 50-seater Embraer ERJ145 aircraft. This aircraft choice is known to provide the versatility to build a sustainable regional network with the right-size capacity while offering customers comfortable seating with generous legroom.

Fastjet Zimbabwe spokesperson, Nunurai Ndawana, said, “The airline is thrilled to introduce direct flights from Victoria Falls to Maun. Using our Embraer ERJ145 aircraft, we believe this route will facilitate more travel between these two tourism capitals of Zimbabwe and Botswana. This route has for many years been only available by private charter.

So, with the introduction of this direct connection, we believe it will be able to spur tourism development and growth in the region”.

Fastjet Group Chief Operating Officer, Donahue Cortes commented, “The Victoria Falls – Maun flight is the second new route being added onto the fastjet regional network, with flights between Victoria Falls and Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga planned to launch ahead of the Easter travel period.

Despite the hard-wearing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Group remains dedicated to the recovery and growth of tourism in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, and to bringing further connectivity to the region”. The new route will operate 4 times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday connecting two of Southern Africa’s most iconic tourist destinations.

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News

Botswana may host Miss World 2024

28th June 2022
Miss world 2024

Botswana has been approached to host the 73rd Miss World, expected in 2024.  During the appreciation event for Miss Botswana, Palesa Molefe, by Southern Epic Cycling Challenge in collaboration with The High Commission of India, Miss Botswana Management Company Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Benjamin Raletsatsi, confirmed that they have been approached by Miss World to host 73rd Miss World.

Speaking at the same arena, Raletsatsi highlighted that it has been his dream to host Miss World in Botswana.  “Miss Botswana is one of the difficult projects to run. There are days I just wake up and ask myself why I am doing what I am doing because everything about me from integrity is often times torn apart.

Then Palesa came along and validated and confirmed that what I am doing is right because it is setting an opportunity for young girls in this country to have an opportunity to express themselves. Four years ago, when I took over Miss Botswana I had a vision, in my vision I wanted the first year to just be us participating in Miss World, second year was for us to participate and ask Miss World to allow us to host Miss World in Botswana, and the third year was for us to elevate ourselves as a country; whilst in year four we wanted to win Miss World.

We could have won Miss World in our third year of office with Palesa, but unfortunately COVID-19 happened. The idea is that this coming year as Palesa will be handing over her Miss Botswana tittle, she will be there to guide the next Miss Botswana on how to prepare for Miss World.”

Raletsatsi pointed out that the reality that Palesa did not win Miss World does not mean she did not do well. “She did exceptionally well”. He said at the end of Miss World there were ten pictures of Miss World participants who had a huge impact auctioned, and out of ten pictures two of those pictures were of Palesa.

The Miss Botswana management CEO highlighted that after the Miss World competition, Miss World responded to their request to host the 73rd Miss World. “They responded and said we can host 73rd Miss World if we are still interested in hosting it.

The current Miss World will be the 71st this year and then followed by the 72nd which is next year and the 73rd which will be in 2024 which has been offered to Botswana. The bigger challenge for me now is how I will be able to convince Batswana to bring Miss World to Botswana.

The honest truth is that Palesa has done her part as a change agent, it is up to us to do our part as Batswana to ensure that Miss World comes to Botswana and is a success. I was joking with one of my friends the other day to say, what Palesa has achieved in one year can take some companies, three to four years to achieve.”

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WeekendLife

Fathers’ Day explodes!

28th June 2022

You choose a path to be better or bitter, why do you have to expose a person, what do you gain from that? We react rather than become proactive. Mothers need help! Some said as social media turned into a battlefield this past Father’s Day.

Baby mamas came all guns blazing, ventilating their frustrations against absent baby daddies through social media posts. “As for me I feel women will be applying a hurting heart or she is bitter to expose baby daddy.

There are channels one can follow to solve this issues rather than rushing to Facebook and exposing them, it’s reacting rather than solving the reality of the problem, it won’t help you, after all what will Facebook do to you? Would it give you the food, would it make the father to support the child, but there are channels one can follow like one can consult with the laws then this man will know the right thing to do”, said Obonye Obza Thapelo who is baby daddy of two daughters.

Thapelo further argued that if you seek for definition you will lose a father, “we have our fathers, it’s not about the responsibility, if we are talking about a father on happy father’s day don’t talk about the definition, talk about father’s day, it never say define or describe whose a father.

When you come back to family, we have family dynamics, family faults and family failures, so if you have family failures, for example, if I have been taking care of the child while we were together and it happens we break up and I stop taking care of the child, are you not going to call me a father just because of my failures?”

“If we are going to look for the faults we won’t be building fathers that we want. “It says happy father’s day, it ends there, and it’s not about the responsibilities. A responsible father depends on one, I can be a fathers because I am your mentor, I can be a father that am not supporting financially but I can just call and check on my child, I can be father that have money but still fails to support but am there physically but not economically, am there emotionally but still am a father.”

“Speaking from experience, my baby daddy have never been there in my kids life so in my own opinion I think happy father’s day means to acknowledge fathers who are present in their children lives, man who are there for their children, I don’t mean for the mothers, am saying their children.”, Norah Moloi mother of three cried.

“Women are reactive to this issues because it hurts to be left alone with children. Seeing other women praising their baby daddies and as for us not even knowing what to say to our children, they don’t even know if this day do exist hurts. I grew up without a father too, I didn’t even had a privilege to wish him that, even happy birthday to him too. I think this now seem like a trend, it’s like a culture now because it’s like everyone is abandoning their children,” Moloi explained.

“There is co-parenting, I mean if you have problem with me exclude the child from our problems. For us to have a healthy children who are mentally fit we ought to be in the same page. Let us hide our problems from our children. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, that is why you saw on social media even kids venting out about their absent fathers.

“As for fathers who are not in their children’s life why should we wish them father’s day? It is like throwing a seed on rocks and expect it to germinate without proper soil, proper sunlight or even without water and expect to reap at the end of the day.

Do you expect such a planter to be praised that they have sowed anything? You are a planter yes but where is your seedlings, you just threw a seed and abandon it, as for me is a big NO! There is a mistake that men turn to make, they think children cannot see all the struggles mother goes through trying to made ends meets for them and later blame it on baby mamas for using children when tables turns.

“Ask yourself, are we to wish man who denied pregnancy father’s day? What of those who long abandoned their children? What is there to be wished? What is supposed to be happy about the day? We are not bitter, we are asking them to put themselves in our shoes,” Moloi expressed herself.

Adding on Calvin G Zacharia father of one daughter says that was a cry for help to single mothers, he said men who are not there for their children don’t deserve to be wished father’s day since they are not playing their role.

Zacharia urged mothers to involve the authority, “there is no use to pass remarks on social media without taking action. If the parents had messy break up they should find a common ground for the sake of their child/children”. It depresses the kids not having another party not playing the role on their lives.

“I think ladies are bitter, just because some man don’t give us money we start labelling them as deadbeat”, Boitshepho Gasefiwe mother of one. Men have their reasons for not being there for their children. There is always two sides of stories. Some kids I saw on Facebook I feel meddle in elder people’s issues without knowing the facts.

When giving his views, Thando Morgan, father of one daughter highlighted that he feels it depends on someone’s emotional intelligence, some act according to how their baby daddy treated them. “Baby mamas know their baby daddies better to find fit worthy a father title, some are venting out because they suffer alone in raising the kids alone.

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