BROWN SUGAR RETURNS AFTER 18 YEARS HIATUS
Despite their 18- year absence in the music scene, Brown Sugar had the older audience reminiscing about the good old days of hit events such as monate sukiri, during their Waar Was Jay performance at Botswana Craft recently.
Clad in sequined Izaura jumpsuits designed by Mothusi Lesolle. The trio belted their hits including Dayz like these, Good Love, La Bafana, Never Believe and Motho Ka Batho.
As the first all female performing group in the country, BrownBrown Sugar is an all female music-performing group of Matshidiso Thathana, Okhola Rudd who is now in Australia, Onana Tema, Bonolo Leteane, Monkgogi Mandevu, and Thato Moahi.
“We started singing in church at an early age and even went on to form another girl group within the Seventh Day Adventist Church named Beautiful Valley.” Shares Monkgogi.
“The church had educational and recreational programmes to keep the children busy and one of the activities was music lessons. We would practice and perform for the congregation on Sabbath day,” said Thato.
Their talent did not go unnoticed and under the watchful eye of the “Godfather” of music; Bame Solomon Monyame, Brown Sugar was born. Their performances expanded from church to be enjoyed by a wider audience and soon they were the first crop of local celebrities followed and loved by many.
Going down memory lane, Thato says “Back then we had sponsors, Vista cellular sponsored our two albums and would give us free phones whenever they were marketing new phones.
There used to be a Soviet clothing label shop and whenever we had a show, we would be dressed by the store and after performances we got to each keep the outfits.
Beaming with pride she goes on to say “We had great designers who always made sure we looked stunning, the likes of Pencer, Thato Mokgadi and Angelo John of Savanna Creations who dressed Mpule Kwelagobe when she won Miss Universe. We had support from the corporate world, retail shops, Op Advertising, Kalawa Jazzmee Records and the media industry. All this support was woven together by Solo Bame Monyame.”
Shedding light on the difference between performing then and now Bonolo says “The music industry has changed tremendously since our time. There are so many more female artists and developments such as Copyright laws and Intellectual property issues are now effective in Botswana.”
For her part, Monkgogi says “Back then it was just about pure love for music and the arts. We didn’t think music could be a career, as this wasn’t the norm in Botswana at the time, hence we all left to further our studies after high school.
Today things are completely different as one can actually make a career out of it. The digital age also makes it easier for artists to reach their fans as well as share their talents abroad with much greater ease.”
Although the group no longer enjoys the attention and business support, they certainly looked the part sharing the stage with the legendary Yvonne Chaka Chaka and celebrated DJ Boogie Sid. “
In 2016 Brown Sugar was nominated for the Yarona FM legendary music award and this propelled the group to consider a comeback.
“I felt it was the music industry was ready for us once more. When this invitation came through, to open for Yvonne Chaka Chaka, I felt this was indeed a sign and to a great honor to be the opening act for The Princess of Africa. It also felt right as it was a charity show for Botswana Society for the Deaf. We couldn’t refuse the offer,” explained Thato excitedly.
“We always knew we would return to the music scene even though we weren’t sure as to when and how.” Exclaimed Monkgogi.
Stressing on this point, Bonolo said that when they got on stage, they owned it like they never left.
It was so emotional it brought tears to my eyes seeing how people really missed Brown Sugar.”
Explaining why it has been so long since the group got together, Thato explains, “ Life took over, though we spoke about it for years when we got back from school, everyone followed their own path. Some of us were now mothers, had gotten married, some were ready, some were not, so the comeback just never happened. But two months ago when we got this offer, most of us felt we could not let this opportunity pass. Despite the challenges it was heartwarming, humbling and exciting to finally perform,” said Thato.
The response she said, was unexpected and appreciated.
Although the trio are all involved in other projects outside the band, when asked if they would perform again, Monkgogi hastens to respond.
“Most definitely. Music isn’t something we just woke up and chose to do, it is in us, at every moment we are always thinking up new ways to keep the brand going and sharing our various God given talents.”
Bonolo is into manufacturing and owns a business, Thato is passionate about food and hopes to package some of her own recipes into a book and own a restaurant someday whilst Monkgogi uses her interior design qualification to create beautiful spaces .