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Promoter par excellence

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Promoter par excellence
TALKING JAZZ: Katumbela

DJ SK talks Francistown Jazz Festival

For a man who has done so much for local jazz music, Soares Katumbela gets far less credit than he deserves.

The 56-year-old Francistown native has been jazzing up the local scene when everyone else was honing their pantsula dance moves.

The Duma FM Jazz show presenter has successfully run four different jazz establishments from the late 80s until the arrival of the millennium.

As a founding member of the Orapa and Francistown Jazz Clubs, Katumbela ranks amongst the pioneers of jazz in Botswana.

With this vast knowledge and experience in jazz promotion, SK has returned to the second city with an ambitious dream of staging the biggest jazz festival in the country.

In this interview he talks to Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo about his latest project, the Francistown Jazz Festival.

Promoter par excellence
FOCUSED: DJ SK

Q. You are the mastermind behind the anticipated jazz festival that was billed for April and later postponed to September. Kindly share with our readers what exactly FJF is?

A. Thank you. Well Francistown Jazz Festival is my long held dream.

It is a project that has been in the offing for some time, and a project that I cannot afford to fail at! FJF is something that I feel the people of Francistown deserve.

Back in the 80s and 90s Francistown was a vibrant city – we had live bands performing every weekend and we hosted some of the biggest names in the industry.

Today the nightlife is appalling; we have a whole generation that cannot have fun anymore because there are no alternatives.

Q. When it was first announced, FJF sounded like a good initiative, particularly to jazz lovers. However, the festival was postponed three days before the event. What went wrong?

A. I have to take full responsibility for the postponement. I realised very late that we were not going to get the sponsorship we had anticipated and by then we had no choice but to cancel the show.

We were not aggressive enough in our efforts to source sponsorship and we paid dearly for that.

I think I took it for granted that because I had coordinated big jazz festivals like the St Louis Jazz Festival, Mascom and beMobile Jazz festivals, and me being a promoter and jazz presenter on Duma FM, getting sponsors won’t be that difficult.

Let’s just say I got a rude awakening!

Q. Was postponing the show the only option?

A. There was a divided opinion within my team. Some wanted the show to go on but my experience has taught me otherwise.

There was no way Shanti Lo, Lister Boleseng or Sereetsi were going to leave Gaborone unless I had paid them their deposit.

There was just no way the festival could go on when I could not guarantee that Ringo would be available.

I could have run around to secure stage and sound in Francistown in order to proceed with the festival, but I’m telling you it was going to be a disaster.

I could not do that to the Francistown people, they deserve a product they can be proud of.

Q. There are only two full months left before the scheduled September date. How are the preparations going?

A. We were lucky to have the Francistown City Council on board. Our partnership with them for the 120 years celebrations has made the festival more attractive and we have seen interest from the private sector.

We are not there yet but the response is encouraging.

From experience I know that the first show is always the most difficult, and this has been the toughest festival of my career.

But I’ll not despair, we learn everyday.

Q. After confirming the new dates, Jonas Gwangwa is now missing from the original line-up. What happened?

A. I sincerely apologise for that, but it was something beyond our control.

We know there are ticket holders who were looking forward to Mr Gwangwa’s sax.

We however had to replace him because his management could not guarantee that he’d be available on the set date.

They informed us that he’s not well and we had to book him at our own risk.

We could not take the risk so that’s why we replaced him.

The man taking his place is not a novice.

Selaelo Selota is an equally capable artist.

Those who saw his recent performance at Botswanacraft can attest to that.

Q. Briefly share with readers what FJF has in store for them.

A. This festival has been modelled around the famous jazz festivals in South Africa and the rest of the world.

It incorporates a family fun day where kids under 12 will go in for free.

We’ll have a kids corner complete with a clown, jumping castle and face painting.

Parents can come to the venue with their kids at 11am and enjoy sets from jazz DJs.

Bands start performing at 2pm and the kids corner closes at 6pm. The show will go on until 6 in the morning, but live performances will be done by 2am.

Q. You have been a promoter for three decades now – what are the daily challenges of a promoter?

A. Challenges are there but most of them are part of the business.

The reason you’ll never hear me pointing fingers or wailing in desperation is because I know the challenges, I can take any knock on the chin and move forward.

Q. You are not just a jazz promoter. You present a jazz show on Duma FM and you also run a music shop.

A. Simply put, jazz is my life. I have been a jazz presenter for seven years and from an early age my focus has always been jazz music and artists.

In 2015 I opened Street-Horn Music Cafe. This is your one stop shop for local music.

Q. How are CD sales in Botswana?

A. It is not as bad as most people say. The only challenge is that local artists are failing to supply us with stock, but for those who do, sales are competitive.

Sereetsi and The Natives were the best sellers for five consecutive months followed by Amantle Brown and Lister Boleseng.

Currently Lizibo’s album is doing well, it has been the most sought after CD in the last two months.

Q. Kindly take us back to your early days as a young jazz promoter

A. At a young age I used to listen to reggae and rock music.

I was introduced to jazz by my late friend and schoolmate, Matshe Matenge.

He bought jazz cassettes while we were at senior school and I was sold.

After completing at Polytechnic I went to Orapa and totally found the place boring.

With the help of Jonathan Sesinyi, Boiki Sebubi and McDon Methane we set up Orapa Jazz club.

We’d later set up the same club in Francistown.

My reputation soon grew and I later hosted jazz shows at The New Yorker Club in Francistown.

In 1990, I opened Ritzmar where jazz was the music of choice.

I’d expand my wings to south of the country and opened Club Take 5 in Mogoditshane and later Jazz Brew in Mochudi.

I have been around and finally I have decided to come back home.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday. What is DJ SK up to this weekend?

A. I’m currently in Francistown. I have been looking at venues around the city and neighbouring places to analyse the gap that is there and how it can be filled.