Q: Hello and thanks for making time to talk to us. How are you doing?
I am fine and can’t complain. Thank you to for finding it important to talk to me about my art.
Q: Let me start by congratulating you for getting sponsorship from the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority to take your book to schools. How does that make you feel?
It’s very exciting. It’s what I have always wanted – to introduce the guitar style to youngsters who carry our best hope of developing it further and exploring many other sonic possibilities with it.
Q: Please tell us more about yourself as an artist.
I do several things. I write. I don’t write fiction.
Yes, to some extent I tell stories through music but when it comes to writing I am more focused on the research of things especially on traditional music.
That’s my niche. That’s what I am focused on right now.
At the moment I am focussed on the folk guitar of Botswana.
The four string guitar. That’s what I am focussed on when it comes to my writings.
I also studied a bit of theatre and I write scripts.
Hopefully I will produce them sooner than later.
Q: You have a music book out there. What is it all about?
The book is called the four …………. It’s an instructional manual and it comes with a CD.
It aims to teach people how to play the four string guitar.
It has the tunings and the chords that are needed to play the style.
Q: What inspired you to focus on the four string folk guitar?
I think it is a journey. I found that in life especially in my case, I find myself going back to where I started.
I started out in Somerset East, the place I call home.
When I was growing up there were all these folk music musicians playing in the drinking spots.
People like Caphius Sibanda, Shine and Ramagwaigwai were always playing out there.
These were the first strings of music that initiated me into music.
Those were the first performance that I witnessed. When I grew up a TV set was a luxury.
I grew up at a time when there was no TV in Somerset.
The closest we could get to packaged music was radio.
And radio at that time was about news. And it was a contested commodity.
It was for parents to listen to the news and as children you would whenever you got the chance steal it and listen to music.
I feel in love with a programme called Maitiso A Setswana which was on Radio Botswana on Saturdays after the evening news.
My heart really ached whenever my father’s radio was without batteries because it meant I would not listen to that programme.
And I also hurt badly on Sundays because I had to go to Spiritual Healing Church and I would miss the chance to hear folk music and poetry on the radio Botswana programme Dipina Le Maboko.
There was a chance that I could hear some poetry and the likes of George Swabi and Sam Raditsebe on that programme.
I was really into Raditsebe big time.
There was also Dikgang Malete and all those people.
From there I kept on moving away from that music.
Q: Moving away why?
I still loved it. But you see there is this thing called education.
You sort of gravitate to other things. And it is a good thing.
Sometimes you have to see other things. Sometimes you have to meet other girls and meet other women to know what you have missed.
I have heard some people say sometimes you go through a lot of girls and then you realise later that some of the girls might be sparkling and glittering but the real essence of a woman is what I came across earlier life and let go.
I can use that metaphor for music as well.
That’s why I am saying I am back where I started. I went into western music.
I have played some rock, some jazz and lot of other stuff.
Although I have never played in a lot of bands, I got into different music at different points in my life.
A lot of them obviously were western because when I grew up there wasn’t an established recording industry in Botswana so it meant a lot of stuff that we consumed was from outside our borders.
For the most part, we listened to mainly South African music.
I have been into that disco thing. Obviously growing up in Somerset you can’t escape that.
It’s a rite of passage. You have to go through your Splash, your Peta Teanet and all that.
I am back where I started but I am using all this experience.
Whenever I write music I hear all these this influences.
I think I have two caps. I have one facing backward and I have another facing to the future.
Some people who have come to my shows have noticed that I have an internationalist feel to my sound although I am rooted in folk music.
My album which I am busy working on has that too.
Q: Do you remember when you first picked up the guitar?
I do remember. I have always loved the guitar and I have always attempted to play.
I believe in God and everything but I do not think I am naturally a gifted musician, probably in relation to others I know.
Some people will just say I picked up the guitar and started playing. As for me I struggled over the years.
I made tin guitars and spent time in the Tati River with mates doing our best to play.
Sometimes it made sense by sheer luck but most of the time it was a struggle and it did not make sense.
I played my first real guitar in 2000 when I was in Tirelo Setshaba.
I used to do theatre by then and we did a performance for one guy.
I think he was from Sweden. That guy had a good quality acoustic guitar which was broken which he gave our group.
I was really keen on the guitar so I kept it and started learning.
I then met a guy who had a guitar book.
I learnt my first chords from the book and I never looked back.
Q: So you are self taught?
No. I was taught by my environment and books.
Q: Can you tell us about your musical group Sereetsi and The Natives?
Sereetsi is me. It’s my father’s name. The Natives are the people.
It’s just me and the people.
Q: I thought The Natives are your band.
No. I actually don’t have a band. My band are the people because we make music together.
We are making music of the people. I play folk music and as you know folk means people.
And Natives are the people who gave me the music.
I not going to say I created this music.
I am just interpreting what exists already.
I am working with stuff that generations that came before me created.
Your Boranakana, Tsutsube, Sekalaka rhythms, even the sound of the four string guitar.
There were big guys who came before, special guys, talented guys.
These are The Natives who created this music which defines who we are as Batswana.
Yes I am writing original music but the backbone and the essence and spirit of that music comes from those who came before me.
I am only bringing myself to what they have already created.
I can only pray that people hear a bit of me in what has already been created.
That is what The Natives are.
Not the guys I play with, they are part of the natives like I am part of The Natives.
Q: Where do you find time for work, music and writing?
A day has 24 hours and 24 hours is a long time in which one can do a lot of things including sleeping.
I am lucky in that my family has given me space to work and use part of the resources meant for the family to push my passions.
It all boils down to the support I get.
Even when I first picked up the guitar, they did not give me the space I needed then.
I hear a lot of people say that when they picked up the guitar their parents made it clear that they did not want them to play music.
Mine did not say they wanted to play music.
They did not say we are excited, they gave me space to do that.
I come from a regular Tswana family with traditional values.
In such families if a child picks up a guitar they are considered mad.
I am grateful to my parents for accepting my madness and believing I could co-exist with the other things such as school.
Q: Thanks for your time and we wish you the best with your arts.
Thanks, you too my brother.