Vusumuzi Oteng Botshelo is the founder of Botswana’s biggest contemporary gospel choir, We Must Praise. He holds a comprehensive musical profile which includes choral music, My Star singing competition, founding We Must Praise Choir and eventually founding an artist and music management company.
He is a BOMU award-winning creative whose passion burns for Botswana’s gospel industry. Vusi believes that beyond its evangelical role, gospel music, if nurtured, can contribute impeccably to Botswana’s economy. In this Interview with Leungo Mokgwathi, Vusi opens up about his journey, the pressure that comes with building from the ground up and the Botswana he dreams of.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood experience like?
I am the fifth of five children. My elder sister and I lived in Mogoditshane with our mother but I later moved to live with my aunt in Village where I spent most of my childhood. The best word to describe my childhood would be ordinary because I come from really humble beginnings. As a result of my family’s socio-economic background, I set my mind on working really hard to change things at home.
The first paid job I ever did was working as a Kiddies entertainer at Caydees where I was earning around P70 per week.
I went to Nkoyaphiri Primary School then later moved to Camp Primary School. I did my High School between Nanogang CJSS and St Joseph’s College and later progressed to study Business Management at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.
How did your musical journey begin?
I was introduced to music in 2007 when I joined the school choir. I then furthered my knowledge and experience through community choirs the likes of Maikano Serenaders. Music has always been my life.
However, I do run a few businesses on the side which are still within the creative space. At the centre is Vubo Music, an artist and music management company that I founded in 2018 and currently manages Shinkie, Boitshepo and We Must Praise.
Did you at any point study music?
I am actually self taught in music. Although I have not attended any formal schooling for it, I have attended a number of music workshops both locally and internationally to improve and increase my musical knowledge.
Can you place where your passion and love for music stems from?
Since childhood, music has always been a place of refuge for me, so I gravitated towards actively pursuing it. It offered me a platform to express myself and my energy.
After realising this safe hub that music was for me, I decided to commit to it and since then I have not looked back.
Is there a reason why you leaned towards gospel music?
In 2013 I entered the My Star competition and was cut in the Top 7. While I didn’t win the contest, I consider it my breakthrough because that is where I got a lot of recognition and people started paying attention to me as a musician.
I grew up in a Christian household and Christianity was my core, it was what I knew best so I naturally leaned into that which I comprehended best.
I enjoyed performing other genres but the feelings and emotions I got when worshipping were different and I realised that I was called to worship. There was this deep spiritual connection I felt and I loved every moment of it. Over time, I then dedicated my life to serving God musically as I believe he gifted me for it.
You founded one of Botswana’s biggest contemporary gospel choirs. How did that come about?
Someone spotted me singing in church and invited me to perform at a show. They later asked me if the team I used was a choir and then the idea hit me.
In 2015 an audition was held, about 100 young people turned up and the cream was selected. The choir was officially launched in 2015 at Limkokwing with over 3000 people in attendance. The choir now has two
live recorded albums to its name, two awards and almost 30 thousand followers locally.
What challenges have you encountered throughout that building process?
I have always loved contemporary gospel music and for a long time I wondered why we didn’t have our own in Botswana.
Bringing this vision to life was very difficult because not everyone understood it and was willing to run with it.
Human resources and finances have always been our biggest challenges but we have always overcome them by God’s grace.
What has kept you going despite the hardships throughout the years?
God’s calling is something you cannot run away from. There have been many instances where I made the decision to quit music but still found my way back to it.
Thank God I never announced it because it would have been difficult to pick up my cross after. Each time I stop pursuing music, my life dramatically becomes stagnant.
If given the chance to go back in time, is there anything you would do differently ?
I would definitely do it all over again but I would be wiser and more intensive with my actions.
You have a huge event coming up that is bringing one of the biggest Nigerian gospel artists to Botswana. Tell us more about it please.
The event is dubbed It is Possible, a collaboration between Vubo Music and Quick Clicks which was founded by Carlis Ralegoreng.
It will be headlined by Nigeria’s Minister GUC, Bucy Radebe and the We Must Praise choir. It is the people’s event that is centred around bringing revival in Botswana with a clear message that with God all things are possible.
You previously won an award for Best Youth in Performing Arts and Entertainment. What exactly were you engaged in for you to scoop that award?
The award was for founding the We Must Praise choir which has become a huge success.
Any wife and kids in the picture?
I am three years into Marriage and blessed with a son called Liyema Lethu Botshelo, Xhosa name which means “Our Home is Standing” or “Pillar of the Family”. Family has grounded me and made me focus.
Every decision I make should positively benefit my family and not bring harm to it. This keeps me on my toes to really think hard about the tough decisions I make especially in the music industry.
How frustrating does your work get?
Very frustrating. Managing and leading over 100 youth is no joke. These are different people with different characters, thought processes and backgrounds. It is frustrating having to manage all that into one common goal.
Tell us about the Botswana gospel industry you dream of.
I dream of a Gospel Industry that is after God’s Heart and not after the love of money, and is forever criticising each other. I desire an industry that works together, uplifts one another and most importantly that strives to improve its production to fit in with the evolving times.
Going forth, what other plans do you have in store?
Through the Youth Development Fund (YDF), I have managed to secure funding for my Sound and Lighting company which is taking off this year so I am excited about that.
Finally, thank God it’s Friday, what will you be up to this weekend?
I have an event in two weeks and my assignment is to prepare for it. I will be up and down putting things together for the event