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AFRIMMA: Nnunu’s lessons from America

Back from Dallas, Texas in the United States where she was nominated for the African Muzik Magazine awards (AFRIMMA), Afro- Jazz sensation Nnunu Bolemo Ramogotsi reflects back on this highlight of her musical career, rubbing shoulders with African superstars and what it takes to bring home an AFRIMMA award, Writes DAVE BAAITSE.


When she dropped her 2012 marvellous and most decorated album ‘Mmasonoko,’ it surely catapulted her to stardom, making her one of the top voices of Jazz music in the country. Ramogotsi has sure strummed the right chords, eventually becoming a brand associate for the industry in the corporate world. She would later travel the world; Europe became her “second home” performing mostly in Sweden and Germany. Her 2016 AFRIMMA nomination came as no surprise to her, especially under the category Best Female Artist in Southern Africa-she instead saw it as yet another opportunity to conquer Africa and indeed the world through her music.


She just returned from the awards a few days ago, where she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Nigeria’s Davido, South Africa’s duo of Lira and Zonke to mention just a few.  “These are the continent’s biggest awards which bring together African artists under one roof and I was very excited,” she said.


Ramogotsi is a versatile artist who has gone all out to explore her talent, she once featured Hip- Hop artist, Dramaboi in a song titled ‘A reyeng’. The song became an instant hit and featured in Dramaboi’s album which topped the charts. African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA) is the sole award ceremony in the Diaspora that caters to all musical genres including but not limited to Afrobeats, Assiko, Bongo, Decale, Funana, Genge, Highlife, Kwaito, Lingala and Soukous.


The third edition of the AFRIMMAs which was held in October 15, 2016 was an explosive affair with preparations and consultations made early to make it a grand occasion. AFRIMMA is committed to writing the African music story on the world map. While Namibian, Chikune won the award for which she was also nominated, Ramogotsi in no way doubts her talent or her capability of bringing back such an award. In fact, she believes the reason Botswana has difficulty with winning at the awards which are on their third year running is because they lag behind in voting, and that this might be influenced by the small population.


Albeit returning without the award, Ramogotsi said she made a lot of contacts and she is looking forward to collaborating with many influential artists across Africa including the winner. Her nomination was guaranteed by her video of the song ‘Mmasonoko’ which was produced at a budget close to P 85, 000. She did not rule out the possibility of collaborating with big names more especially the Nigers who happen to dominate the African music industry.


According to Ramogotsi, to be nominated for the awards takes a lot of courage and hard work. A nominee’s music has to be taken under a vetting process, she said, adding that “one has to be influential and active in social media” and their music has to be of good quality. “The artist has to be consistent with her work and has to have done a lot of collaborations with other big names, ” she added and gave an example of Mafikizolo who have now taken a new approach to their music. Mafikizolo have now added a bit of Nigerian beats and tempo in their new songs.


While Ramogotsi said it is not easy breaking the ice as a jazz artist, she is happy that she has managed to break into the scene. Even though she did not disclose more, she is currently working with one of the big groups from Uganda on her upcoming album which might be released sometime next year. They met at the AFRIMMAs and the group is more interested in her music and they agreed to work together on collaborations. This was after they performed together in Galveston in Texas after the awards and her upcoming album looks to be nothing other than a magnum opus featuring some of Africa’s crème de la crème.           


Ramogotsi is a member of The Women of Jazz, a trio band that consists of her, Kearoma Rantao and Punah Gabasiane- Molale. She is also a member of the Re Batswana Ensemble and has contributed a lot in the local music industry. She said the founders of AFRIMMA who once visited Botswana believe the country has a lot of talent and that there is a lot yet to be done. On their second edition, the awards honoured the country’s President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama with a Transformational Leadership Award for his contribution in the arts industry.


“Personally as an artist, I think Botswana should affiliate to the AFRIMMA, those people like our music, more especially the traditional music. Other artists such as Vee who was nominated last year and again this year had the opportunity to perform at the AFRIMMA stage and they were impressed,” she said. She asserted that this, to her was an eye opener and called on local artists to come together and unite and work as a team to bring an AFRIMMA award home next year.


She also alluded to the fact that as artists, they have a lot of challenges and government should come to their rescue. Earlier this year when they met with Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, now Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng, he advised them to work together and form an arts council that will be the voice of artists. Olopeng warned them of forming a lot of associations that end up clashing and not serving their intended purpose.


Ramogotsi even suggested that the trouble with getting finances sorted  when it comes to making trips across the world for awards like the AFRIMMAs would be easier dealt with, should there be a council formed as minister Olopeng advised. For her trip to the US, she managed to get sponsorship from Sprint Couriers for a return air ticket, but for meals and travelling within the US, she had to make ends meet.

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Given Carter fools Batswana – again

11th May 2021
Given Carter

Pranks, for a common man, is designated to the 1st of April- April fool’s day. Usually it’s the only day out of the entire 365 days one can make a fool of others and get away with practically anything, anything legal that is.

While there are fanatics who do it for amusement, there are some who do it to earn their daily bread and butter. Some obviously saw a niche to keep people fascinated especially in these emotionally straining times of COVID-19. For the record, they don’t play ordinary cards as you may think.

Their pranks are as big and as real as marriage wrecking and all the drama that comes along with it. Given Carter is not just your ordinary boy next door. The Tonota born prankster is currently taking the entire country on an emotional rollercoaster from the comfort of his home in Francistown.

At only 32-years, Carter BW’s skills of planning and executing a prank is what sets him apart from the rest. In fact one can go as far as to say that he’s the only prankster Batswana know.His ideas are unique and relevant, telling a tale that someone can sit and think about, perhaps learn from it because they are everyday life happenings that most people can relate to because they have a way of really hitting home.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, the versatile Given Carter (who is also a photographer) says the inspiration behind pranking was to introduce something not so common in Botswana, and challenge typecasts associated with art, especially modern art.

“Growing up, we only saw pranks on the television dominantly done by the whites. We never thought this is something we can do, or maybe we didn’t understand the logic behind it. But I guess, pranks are real life lessons we need, its only that they are shared in a more hilarious and sometimes obstinate way,” he said.

Given Carter told this publication that, he spends most of his time on the internet, learning more tricky skills. This is quite a remarkable observation because in this era of advanced technology, one doesn’t necessarily have to go to school to learn from the grassroot. The use of technology has made it easier for people to acquire skills and knowledge, and still do exceptionally well without being in class.

“Of course, a bit of it is common sense but I make use of the internet to learn more on how I can improve my craft. It is quite unpretentious to do a prank because they are real-life situations, so its not much of a big deal. I needed people to learn and I think I came at the right time because most people are online, and the reception is just incredible.”

He however shed light on his first video shot in Shakawe that went viral, subsequently leading to speculations of his crew’s arrest. Given Carter was however not arrested instead he was brought before the police for questioning.

“We were not arrested as people may think. We were called to write statements on what the prank was all about and we were released the same day. I believe maybe we went too far in what we depicted in the video because it’s something that the society is not yet ready to accept, but it has been happening for a long time,” he told WeekendLife.

In many Western countries, pranksters do this for a living through YouTube accounts and subscriptions. “As it is currently, I do not have a YouTube channel. I am still building a platform and I’m certain very soon it will be up and running. I am primarily focused on taking my craft to the people, and let people know more about what I do. So technically, it has been about familiarising people with the art.”

Even though that’s the case, Given Carter says there is room for paid partnerships and endorsements. After all, there is an entire crew which need money to pay the bills. He says with so much ideas spinning in his head, there is need for financial support to be able to dish out more seeing that people love his works and how realistic his pranks are.

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Vee, Charma Gal battle it out for fellow artistes

4th May 2021
Vee, Charma Gal

Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

In these unprecedented times of the overwhelming and the deadly COVID-19, it is only critical that people stand together and remain committed to helping each other, being kind enough to lend a helping hand in any way possible.

The contagious virus left people confounded, deprived and depressed. The pandemic shuttered many economies, industries and the entertainment sector was no exemption. If anything, the entertainment industry took the biggest hit of all the sectors but this was a hit felt in every country in the world not just a local tragedy.

There were tear-jerking testimonies of creatives, in particular artists, suffering from extreme hunger as events were given a rain check. Technically, social events have been shut for sixteen months now.

There were series of protests calling for the immediate opening of the creative sector, in a phased manner. Some brave yet unfortunate artists were arrested for taking up arms and protesting the strict COVID-19 regulations placed on the entertainment sector.

When protests failed and their laments falling on government’s usual deaf ears, prominent artists Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

COVID-19 has created untold challenges for musicians in Botswana, but there are possibilities- challenges have a way of breeding solutions nonetheless.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday, Vee said the Battle to Develop Artists Welfare is aimed at inspiring artists to learn diversification, which has been lacking for quite a stretch amongst fellow artists. A lot of local artists depend solely on music, which on its own has been performing below par, and COVID-19 has brought that into clear view, showing how most artists in Botswana live off scraps, barely making money off their beloved passion- music.

“This project was born out of compassion. The world as it is now is experiencing a rough patch, and you can imagine how other artists are coping. It is really a struggle, and we saw it critical to jump on-board and help our fellow colleagues. It will help artists start small businesses, some will start short courses which will enable them to find employment in the long run.

For it to have weight, we incorporated it into a challenge on stage, performing our songs. We hope this will inspire business moguls to sponsor and pledge some monies towards this initiative,” said Vee.

Charma gal indicated that the live battle on stage has been supported with musical instruments, further indicating that this is a volunteerism project with no proceeds to gain from.

“We will divide and disburse proceeds to our fellow artists, I mean these are people we have been working alongside for so many years. There is no how we can be reckless towards them when we see how hard the situation is.

We are in this together, and we are going to stick together like that. Some have started already doing something, and meeting them half way is only fundamental,” Charma Gal told WeekendLife.

The duo stressed that Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Mpho Balopi, has pledged P50 000 towards this battle, further calling on other businessmen to come to the party. Vee says Balopi supported the initiative from the get-go, brushing aside allegations that the project is politically influenced.

Initiatives brought forward to aid the entertainment sector have caused controversy, with Vee emphasizing that not all artists will benefit from this particular charity cause. “We have artists who are struggling, and sadly so. Some of them were bread winners and there is no income coming in, making it hard for them to cope with the economic challenges.

There has been an increase in VAT recently, and such developments make the situation worse. Rigorous assessments will be done to identify our desired beneficiaries.”

Vee and Charma Gal will be battling it out on stage with the battle scheduled to take place on the 28th May 2021. Because events are still striped, the show will be online with COVID-19 protocols to be adhered to.

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WeekendLife

BOMU, MYSC kiss and make up

27th April 2021
BOMU-VEE

Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions.

2020 was a depraved year for the local entertainment industry. Music festivals, large gatherings and concerts were given a rain check as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the deadly Corona-virus. As for an industry that depends solely on events for survival, the move to shelf gigs was literally kicking a dog when it’s down.

There was no revenue coming in, and depression found its way into the already devastated industry. Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, was fingered in this muddle. He was censured for being hushed. The relief fund also sparked controversy, with many creatives of the belief that it’s prejudiced and impractical.

Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions. The situation became chaotic as police officers told the artists that the gathering is illegal and that they should get a permit first. Artists decided to go the right way, applying for a permit to hold their meeting, and this time around in Old Naledi.

Creatives (most of which are BOMU members) came out swinging as they packed Old Naledi grounds in a show of strength against the COVID-19 Task team and politicians. But gathering a large crowd at the Old Naledi grounds was like playing a game of Russian roulette, as most of the attendees were potentially exposed to the Corona virus because there was no social distancing, wearing of masks, nor sanitization.

Artists however were clearly making their voices heard – they wanted their industry opened, but by the look of things the Task Force team will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat for this to be given the greenlight before another year comes to pass. Till date, the creative industry is still abandoned.

Following a series of protests, the custodian Ministry (MYSC) came up with virtual gigs and engaged artists for performances. However, this fuelled tension between upcoming artists and those who are already household names. In late December 2020, a group of young artists demanded answers from the Youth Ministry on how the so called ‘Big Artists’ secured virtual gigs from the Ministry.

A new BOMU Executive Committee was ushered in August last year which saw the Union and the custodian Ministry smoke a peace pipe. Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is an organization that works as an intermediary between registered artists and the Youth Ministry.

On Friday (16th April 2021) at a press conference to launch the 10th BOMU music awards, BOMU President Phemelo ‘Fresh’ Lesokwane said the Union has effectively managed to rebuild and earn back trust with its stakeholders, including MYSC and De Beers.

“These two entities have been BOMU music awards’ top sponsors for the past 10 years. We have managed to revive the awards and appoint a person who I will refer to as a brand marketing specialist. There has been a lot of miscommunication peddled around and as a leader of BOMU, I will be irresponsible to ignore all of it,” Fresh said.

Fresh is definitely not MYSC nor Minister of Rakgare’s spokesperson, but he had this to say: “It is very important I clear up the distortion of facts out there. MYSC and BOMU leadership have been hard at work, and in the previous year, we managed to push 90% of our members to register with COSBOTS so as to benefit from the subsidy. For the matter of fact, this did happen.

BOMU says it managed to convince MYSC to fund their 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM). “The Ministry accommodated, paid all costs of accommodation and food for all the delegates who attended the AGM. This was a first for BOMU for as long as anyone can remember. I was so happy to see Minister Rakgare attending our AGM, which was for the first time also.”

Rakgare and his associates have been given a pat on the back for the national consultative meetings they took last year. They met with industry representatives and discussed calendar of events and how they should be rolled out. BOMU also pleaded with the Youth Ministry not to cancel events this year, and according to Fresh, the Ministry agreed.

“This is why they are helping with BOMU music awards and in due course, we will be calling the media to reveal the sponsorship. And on top of that, BOMU has access to the Minister and his circle of associates. They have their doors open for us, and we can’t be fighting with the Ministry while we see how welcoming it is to us. Lot of noise is made by non-BOMU members, which should be condemned in any way possible.

The Youth Ministry however, says it will engage on consultations with organizations, not individuals. This is why it is very important for artists to join BOMU now.”

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