When the year 2020 took off, there was great excitement and hope for a bright and exciting chapter for many people. Among those who glorified 2020 were performing artists – they scheduled a plethora of events and music shows that were eagerly awaited by fans.
All of these planned activities collapsed with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent State of Emergency declared by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi. The extreme social distancing restriction has scattered and shattered dreams! Artists feel they got the sharp end of the deadly pandemic as their daily bread and butter comes from the creative industry. Most artists are currently at home clinging to the hope that government consider them as well as the many employed within the creative industry.
Things have gone from bad to worse for the music industry as the country gears up for a six months State of Emergency despite the fact that 28 days extreme social distancing concludes end of this month. There is a chance of an extension though. Artists say they face a possible bleak and hungry future as they do not know where their source of income would be as long as the extreme social distancing measures are in place.
WeekendLife took time to dialogue with some of the artists to hear how they are coping with the lockdown.“Pretty much like everyone else I am in lockdown and can’t work because people are not allowed to assemble. Festivals and conferences have been cancelled or postponed and at this rate even those postponed may not even happen later in the year. Indications are showing that things will come back to normal in 2021.
I was booked for a lot of festivals in Botswana and internationally as well as for some conferences. I also had my own events organised for Sereetsi & The Natives’ 5th year anniversary. I had recording sessions lined up. All these cannot happen because of this extreme social distancing. Right now I can’t earn a living because I am stuck at home,” local Jazz sensation Tomeletso Sereetsi of Sereetsi and the Natives shared with WeekendLife.
He further stated that, though this may seem hard for him, he has decided to use this time to do things that matter the most to him. “On the flipside, this is a chance for me to spend time with family, recharge my batteries and reflect on my work and my place in the world. It is also an opportunity to create new music and strategise for the new post COVID-19 environment. As they say “adapt or die”, it is time to prime myself not to be left behind in the ensuing new business normal.”
“I will be hosting online concerts for as long as the lockdown continues. People need music to take their spirits off the gloom and doom of Covid-19. I had my first Facebook Live concert on my artist page which was a resounding success. It went for well over, 1hour 30 minutes. The demand for another one was huge. As part of the concerts, I am sharing words of encouragement as well as messages from health officials.
I have also contributed to the Covid-19 campaign on BWGovernment. It is not rocket science that Covid-19 lockdown means that artists cannot earn a living. The online concert is part of an effort to raise a buck and hopefully, be able to also contribute to the national Covid-19 Relief Fund.”The next Facebook Live concert session is slated for Thursday 23 April 2020 at 7:30pm.
“The concert series is called Serubing Live Session 2. The first was Serubing Session 1. Music lovers can tune in to the live concert by liking and following my artist page so that they are alerted of the performances when they happen,” he said. Sereetsi urged government to include artists in the relief fund. “Government should help the creative sector as well because it employs a lot of people as well. It may be largely informal but it is feeding a lot of families. It also deserves a rescue package. The creative sector should be included in P2billion government rescue package,” he said.
Meanwhile songbird Amantle Brown, shared with WeekendLife that she was booked for three shows and they had to be cancelled. The songstress is home wondering where her bread will come from. “This lockdown has locked us down indeed, some of us have been on lockdown before lockdown even began. The financial side of things is showing us dust. For me it’s cool because I have a studio in my house, but coming to think of it, I do not have money and I do not know how I am going to make money.
I am just wondering if these people are thinking of us, are we even considered in anything. The lockdown is something I wish to never happen again,” she lamented.Brown has currently set up a mini studio at home where records her music, and spends most of her time. Rhumba veteran, Franco was one of the artists who was anticipating a successful and great turn up for his much talked about Soul Fill up event. Unfortunately, like many other events this one too had to take the back seat due to the pandemic. In an almost defeated like move, the Kwasa Kwasa star has also stopped his rehearsals.
“It is a sad reality we all have to face at this point in time, we are all disappointed and sad for not being able to host a show we planned really well for. Frank is a man who is not shy to show his emotions, he was noticeably sad at what unfolded, not just for the show but mostly because of people losing their lives all over the world.
Currently no rehearsals are going on, no recordings are going on and there is no income at all. He will continue to take care of his staff in the best way possible. We shall all come back better and stronger, we are still 100% optimistic that one day we shall deliver,” said Kabelo “K-lo” Oanthata, the Public Relations Officer for Soul fill up with Franco
“Khiring khorong” hitmaker, Atasaone Molemogi otherwise known as ATI said: “Batswana ba thomola Pelo, do you know hunger tota. I just want to say that there is karma and it’s well on its way for anybody who put their belly in exchange for the livelihood of the people. The people might pay the heavy price of naive decision making in who they so dearly trust to lead them.
But the great revelation will call for an occurrence never witnessed before in the eyes of the oppressed and the oppressor. This awkward paradigm will see the powerful become powerless and the powerless with divine protection. Mark my words. Something big is unfolding. Truth or dare is the nature of this kind of flair.”
There is a growing unpleasant of artists who do not pitch for events they have been booked for; or simultaneously, there could be another development – false advertising – where artists’ names are used to draw large crowds.
Musicians and promoters in their mission to put bread on the table seem to have resorted to obscene means of securing their means. To many, this is tantamount to fraud and deception to gain an unfair advantage over their unsuspecting fans who swoon at the mention of their name, their presence and entire existence.
The month of May has just begun and bottomless grievances are pouring in of no show musicians at gigs they have been booked and paid for. Instead of leaving the crowd stunned by a spectacular show they are leaving revellers disappointed.
Exhibit A; This past weekend Eswatini’s DJ Uncle Waffles was scheduled to perform in Botswana. She never pitched up for the shows and continues to be silent on her lack of presence at the show. Exhibit B; Maphorisa, Kabza De Small and Sha Sha were all set to perform on 29 April at the Victoria Falls Carnival 10th Anniversary but did not arrive in Zambia for the gig.
In a statement released on Sunday 1 May, Victoria Falls Carnival organisers confirmed that flights and accommodation were organised for DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small and Sha Sha. The statement continued; “Confirmations were sent to them as agreed and emails were sent to them several times before, for some reason they did not show up at the airport on the day of travel…
Above and beyond we tried to communicate with the artists to change the date of performance but still we could not get hold of them despite all the effort and all means of communication from our side,” Organisers have demanded that the artists refund them the full booking fee and the payments made for flights and accommodation
“All three artists were paid in full and contractually bound to perform at the Carnival, and accommodated at every corner with their numerous flight and accommodation change requests.” Adds the statement. Exhibit C; South African artist Prince Benza’s passport was confiscated by the Deputy Sheriffs pending payment for damages on breach of contract.
He was scheduled to perform at Mogobane on the 31st of December at the Reflector Music Festival but did not appear as well. He nabbed when he came into the country for a separate event. The President of Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), Gilbert Seagile this week had his company; Gilbert Promotions registered in South Africa.
This puts him in an ideal spot to become an intermediary and help solve the feud between Botswana and South African artists and their no show at events. Seagile emphasized that it’s not only international artists that miss events but even the local artists have the same tendencies. He elaborated that reasons for artists not pitching up are many amongst them ; breach of contracts , promoters not paying deposits and some can be natural like artist testing positive for Covid-19.
The BEPA president also indicated that fly-by-night promoters are also a concern as they do not follow the BEPA Code of conduct, “BEPA members are well coordinated, they have the code of conduct which guides them to do things accordingly. The government is pushing for promoters to join BEPA they have already started refusing with permits when one is not a member of BEPA.” he emphasized
Seagile said that the association is in talks with the South African Music Promoters Association (SAMPA) to provide protection of Botswana Promoters that when artists miss shows they can be able to rope in their lawyers in South Africa through SAMPA and Botswana through BEPA to compensate for losses incurred as a result of this exploitation.
He said another way of dealing with this matter is for Promoters to issue a contract to the artist as currently the norm is that the artist produces the contract to the promoter so this solution can help the promoters to protect themselves.
In an interview with Weekendlife, Superintendent Tumediso of Urban Police Station enunciated that matters of no show artists are normally reported by the promoter who normally comes as the complainant. The matter is then taken forward taking into consideration the evidence, this will in turn assist in determining on whether the case is theft, obtaining by false pretence or fraud. When it is all said and done, revellers love musicians to hate them and hate them to love them. It is an unending toxic relationship which no one wants to pull away from.
As the creative industry is trying to resurface from the COVID-19 dust, the board chairperson of Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS), Bakalanga Mahoko, says the society is considering giving out relief funds to their members who have been hit hard by the COVID -19 induced restrictions. She noted that this will however depend on government’s response to their request for funds.
She told WeekendLife that the society has already written to government requesting funds. Once the request is approved, she says some of the funds will enable the society to embark on road shows across the country to sensitise the general public about COSBOTS. The road shows are designed to run for several weeks before the annual general meeting which is scheduled for May, 28th this year. Among other things, she says part of the money will be used as a relief fund for their members.
“As we are all aware, the industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions and some of our members were unable to raise money for their survival and that alone affected the industry. We anticipate that government will consider and approve our request and once it’s approved our members will smile all the way to the bank as their bank accounts will be credited by the COSBOTS,” she says.
She added that if things go according to plan, this will be the second time that their members would have been assisted through such an initiative. She said at the moment they have registered about 2800 members across the country and the board anticipates that the membership number will increase sharply.
“I am not yet in a better position to divulge the amount which each artist will be given because government has not yet responded to our request, but once that has been approved the society will announce,“ she says.
Mahoko was elected as the board chairperson sometime last year and has also been the first woman to lead such society which she described as “privileged”. “As many will recall, the society was in a mess and there were squabbles among members. There was also mismanagement of funds that resulted in the members, government as well as the public losing trust on the society and that dented badly the image of the society,” she says.
Mahoko further stated since she has been in office for more than a year, things now look much better and promising. The government gave the society a grant and that alone was a sign of trust from government. Recently COSBOTS distributed over P7 million as royalties.
With over 20 years in the business of publishing school books for both primary and high school schools as well as fuelling the imagination and guiding the soul of the youth. Collegium Education Publishers are continuing with their trailblazing mission by launching EBooks.
During the launch of the Ebooks platform recently, Naledi Ratsoma, Author and Founding Director of Collegium Botswana took the audience on a trip down memory lane. She disclosed that after falling out with a local publishing company, she established new ties with a publishing company in South Africa. “The adage don’t get mad, get even worked for us.
We decided we are going to get them, we are curriculum specialists we know what the curriculum is all about and what books should be to support the type of curriculum.” She said deep in thought. “The start-up was not easy, I was the general, manager, tea lady working from 6 am to 10pm. It was sheer determination and hard work that got the company going.
Today I feel honoured and excited, Collegium grew by leaps and bounds. Here we are today. Dare I call Collegium a success story? Yes I do, it is a resounding success story.” She uttered excitedly Looking into the future, Terrence Showa, Collegium CEO was tasked with only one job to do.
That job? Moving Collegium to digitization and joining the rest of the publishing world in transition towards the Fourth industrial revolution and a knowledge based economy. “Today I stay to you quite proud to be the first publisher in the country to launch the prescribed eBooks.” He said.
Showa mentioned; “I was told to come with a cheaper solution for government, after three years with meeting several Information Technology think tanks we came to the conclusion that Snapplify, gurus in providing eBooks and eLearning were in alignment with what we are looking for. Ebooks provide a simple solution for teachers, parents, students to use at their homes.
It will also be 30% cheaper for government to procure the books. An added benefit was the ability to give free content by Snapplify on the side of library service. ” He says the Ebook Platform has been fast tacked by the rural electrification program by government prioritizing the need to digitise books.
When speaking to the WeekendPost on the side after the event, Showa when questioned on matters of piracy which comes with the digital age, he enunciated that “as Collegium the failure of us to regulate the printing and photocopying of our books frustrates us daily. There are institutions who have committed to procuring photocopying machines to make copies of our books.
We are excited about eBooks because the licence procured when buying the book will run for only a year and will limit users to being able to photocopy and take screenshots of the books. One of the reasons Snapplify made sense to us is they know exactly what the challenges that come with digital platforms are. The content will only be downloadable into devices through a profile set up and limit the number of users on the site.”
For their presentation, Stephen Bestbier and Mark Seabrook from the Snapplify Team; the application is accessible everywhere with an offline feature to encourage data saving and reading offline, it is compatible with existing devices be it mobile, tablet and desktop. The simple library management functionality makes it easy to check out books and return them automatically to curb the ancient penalty of paying late return fees as well as avoiding d issues of lost book since it will be on an online platform.
The academic features include; a designated dyslexic friendly font, text to speech functionality, journal, bookmarks. The Elibrary provides for convenience as 24/7 access to learning, materials since the online library does not close like the traditional library. The support platform ‘teacha!’ also reliefs’ teachers in their work by building skills with accredited professional development courses and platform training.
Snapplify are leaders in Pan African educational technology with thousands of institutions across Africa with students and academic staff within the Snapplify ecosystem from primary schools to tertiary institutions.
Snapplify is the best eLearning solution with a comprehensive content catalogue with constant delivery and a proven track record of rolling out large government eLearning projects. Collegium’s vision has indeed come to pass to become market leaders in the provision of high quality teaching and learning materials for institutions in Botswana.