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A superstar explodes

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A superstar explodes
SONGBIRD: Motlha

‘Mma motse’ thrills the nation

Initially, Motlha Mompe comes across as a reserved, slightly shy character.

Certainly, the softly spoken 24-year-old is not your stereotypical pop star.

However, get him behind a mic and the Mmadinare native comes to life, all inhibitions melt away as Mompe is consumed by the music, lost in what he loves.

Raised by a single mother along with seven siblings, the singer-songwriter originally came to prominence in 2015.

Having failed the year before, he wowed the ‘My Star’ judges with his unique vocals, winning the national singing competition and walking away with P10, 000 and a recording deal in the United Kingdom.

Three years later, just when it seemed his career was fading into obscurity, Mompe was to pen down ‘Mma Motse’, a song which shot him to instant stardom.

Released in January, this mega hit, sung entirely in Setswana, has captured the hearts of the nation’s music lovers with its easy-going Afro Jazz sound, complete with gentle background drumbeat.

Voice reporter Sharon Mathala tracked down the in-demand artist on the eve of his album launch – scheduled for next week – to discuss his meteoric rise to fame and to find out a little more about the man behind the music.

Q. Who is Motlha?

A. Motlha is just a simple guy from Mmadinare.

I was raised by a single mother in a typical Setswana set up with my siblings.

I then relocated to Gaborone to further my schooling and find my passion and here I am now talking to you!

Q. Take us through your musical career?

A. I started music at an early age really, but I was not yet confident about my craft and talent.

I used to sing in the shower type of thing.

But if I recall correctly, the very first time I stood in front of people was when I was about seven years old and that was at a church service.

Q. Your first big break came through talent search show ‘My Star’, tell us about your journey with the musical competition

A. I had always been a fan of the show. So in 2014 I just woke up one day and decided to audition for the show.

Unfortunately I did not make it to the final stages that year and I think that was because I had the wrong mentality.

My energies were just not right at the time.

I decided to join the show again the next year and having learnt a lot from my mistakes, I was ultimately crowned the winner for the year 2015.

Q. Would you say that is where your professional musical journey began?

A. I would say so yes because after winning the show I managed to get a few gigs here and there and make a few appearances.

At the time I was still not known in the industry; I took about two years going in between studios and trying to get my music out.

My first big break came through a single I recorded in 2017 called ‘Sesame’.

Q. Do you write and compose your own music?

A. Yes I write my own lyrics and I contribute a lot to the sound. With ‘Mma Motse’ it actually did not take me long to write the lyrics, the beat was given to me and everything was just a rollercoaster from there!

Q. Is ‘Mma Motse’ your debut single release?

A. I actually released two singles before ‘Mma Motse’.

In one I was featuring another upcoming artist in the label and because we really did not market the song, I was to go for a few more months without getting or rather causing airwaves up until I released ‘Mma Motse’.

Q. Nowadays it’s rare for an artist to record in Setswana – why did you choose to be different in that way? Are you not worried the language barrier might harm your chances of breaking onto the international scene?

A. I made the conscious decision to do so because Setswana comes easy with the tongue.

I do not have to think deeply about how to express love in Setswana like I do in English or describe whatever in a foreign language.

The type of sound we make has not yet been popularised so we will for now stick to it because people relate to the sound, maybe because of its traditional feel.

I want to embrace our culture before I can actually spread my wings to other countries.

Q. How has your life changed since you released the song?

A. Batswana have been so supportive of my craft. When we made the song we also felt the wave coming, it was an instant hit right from the studio really.

People do not even call me by my name anymore, a lot of people call me Mma Motse!

But to be honest when the song was released people did not really know my face, but they knew the song.

I would go to places and hear people discussing it and the response has been amazing.

Q. You will be launching your debut album this weekend, what can the public expect?

A. The album is called ‘African Native’.

I feature about four more established artists in the album including ATI, Soul Culture and a few others.

The plan was to have 10 songs but we will now have 14 songs.

The way we will line up the songs will be sort of a life story, every song resonates with the other and there are a lot of messages shared in the songs so I cannot wait to dish out the project to Batswana and eventually the world.

Q. Speaking of your collaboration with ATI, was that not a bit awkward considering your song toppled his from the number one spot?

A. ATI is really an honest guy. He appreciates talent and it was only inevitable that we would work together.

Our song is called ‘Hisa Hisa’ and it magically gelled the two of us together.

There is no beef! I did not do anything to overshadow his ‘Khiring Khiring Khirong’ song – there will also come a time when ‘Mma Motse’ will phase out and another song is in the lime light, that’s just how the music industry works! But between us artists, no there is no beef.

Q. As an upcoming artist with a massive hit, record labels must be thronging to your doorstep? What measures have you taken to make sure they don’t take advantage of you?

A. I am under someone’s record label yes, but he does not have total control of my content or what I do.

Before we make a final decision I have the final say.

I am aware of what has happened to other upcoming artist so I may not get it right all the time but I am definitely aware of it and I am trying by all means not to fall into that trap.

To be honest, I am just an artist, I may not know the ins and outs of the industry so I sort of need a record label to assist me with some of the contractual engagements.

Q. Finally, thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. I will be in studio preparing for the album launch.