In a league of her own
2022 has been a year to remember for Soul sensation, Mpho Sebina.
The 33-year-old singer/song-writer stole the show at the recent BOMU Awards, walking away with three awards on the night: Best RnB, International Achievement and Album of the Year.
Known for her gentle, emotional melodies and moving performances, Sebina’s beautiful blend of music packs an international punch that has long exceeded Botswana’s borders.
Her global appeal saw her nominated for the Best Female Southern Africa at the 2022 AFRIMMA Awards in Texas, Dallas, where she wowed the multi-racial audience with a spellbinding performance.
With the eye-catching looks of a model, the voice of an angel and the drive of a high powered businesswoman, Sebina’s success is hardly surprising; she is fast becoming one of the most influential artists in Africa!
The Voice’s OLEOSI KGOSI met up with the multi-talented ‘Tsela Tshweu’ hit-maker to reflect on the year that was and the career that is…
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It is such an honour to be doing this interview with you, thank you for creating time for us. Kindly tell us about yourself and your career?
I am a melodist, singer and songwriter born and raised in Botswana.
I was born in Mochudi, raised in Kanye but ke Mokalaka ko Serowe.
When did your music journey commence, what inspired you?
I have always had a passion for music.
Growing up around music lovers, I was introduced to the sounds and styles of the Brenda Fassies, Miriam Makebas at a young age and found music as a place I could express myself freely.
I started writing and recording in 2009.
I developed my skill until I released my first project titled ‘NEO’ in 2017 which was followed by debut album ‘Lora’ which just won Album of the Year at this year’s BOMU awards.
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I am inspired by life, music and African sounds, melodies and languages.
How would you describe your music style?
My music is Soul influenced by other genres from Hip Hop, R‘n’B, Choral and Setswana Folklore.
Take us back to your first live performance – when was it and how did it go?
My first solo performance was in Gaborone at Cresta Hotel in Main Mall in 2014.
It was a very intimate show, showcasing unreleased music.
I was nervous the entire time but a lot of family and friends came out to support.
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And what was your breakthrough moment, when you felt like you’d really penetrated the music scene?
I would say releasing my first project was a breakthrough!
It is not an easy journey but to be able to stand your ground and put together a project was a breakthrough and the reception I received was unbelievable.
How about the highlight moment of your career to date?
Winning three BOMU Awards in one evening has to be a huge highlight in my career.
I have performed on a lot of stages globally and attended various award shows but it feels great to be affirmed in your own home ground.
Unpack the experience for us – how did it feel having your name called out thrice?
It was very surreal to win three times!
I was not expecting it at all – and the journey comes with a lot of self-doubt.
I’m very honoured to have been awarded in that way!
Thank you to Batswana who keep supporting our movement.
What do you think makes you stand out from other artists?
We are all unique as artists, it is just about staying true to yourself and what inspires you.
I draw inspiration from where I come from and take pride in infusing that into my art, whether it be sonically and visually.
This is what sets me apart.
One notable thing about your music is that most of your songs are in Setswana, what’s the reason behind that?
Ke Motswana, Mo Botswana.
Why sing in any other language? I love Setswana, it is a sexy language.
What’s your process when coming up with a new song?
I am inspired by my own emotions and feelings, so when I create it is usually inspired by where I am in life emotionally.
I am also inspired by Setswana music, sounds, language and people.
Before your brilliance at the BOMUs, you were also up for the Best Female, Southern Africa award at the AFRIMMA Awards in America, Texas; what was that like?
Also another honour to be recognized alongside African Giants in the south.
It was amazing to be able to attend the awards and to share my artistry to such a diverse crowd.
You performed at the event too; what was the reception like flying Botswana’s flag high in the USA?
The reception was phenomenal.
We showcased a very different performance that night, highlighting vocals.
Our aim was to leave our mark on stage and we did just that.
Sticking with the international theme, tell us about your experience with the Music Scholarship Program in Berlin powered by the Goethe Institute of German and Pop Kultur Festival?
It was a great learning experience: meeting with artists from all over the globe was truly special.
We learnt about about technologies, software and programs that aid in delivering the best music possible.
It was my first time in Europe and I got to showcase my music as well, the reception was very reassuring.
What can you say to other local artists who wish to have their craft recognised internationally like yours?
Keep creating! And keep sharing.
The internet exposes you to the entire globe!
Based on your observations, how can the Botswana music industry be improved?
We need to exercise professionalism in treating our art as businesses and also surround ourselves with people who are skilled in law, business, marketing etc. to help grow ourselves.
What is your scholarly qualification and how does it contribute towards running your musical career?
I have an Honors Degree in International Business.
Music is a business and what I learnt does come in use.
So what are you currently working on, can we expect any music from you anytime soon?
Working on a lot of collaborations right now, especially with women on the continent.
Hope to be sharing that in 2023.
What do you have planned for next year?
Lots of music, a ‘Tsela Tshweu’ video and plenty collaborations.
Generally, what are the challenges you face in your line of work and how do you overcome them?
There is a general lack of respect towards artists in Botswana causing a lot of financial issues.
Music is also quite a patriarchal game.
In overcoming them I’d say: be stubborn, keep creating and sharing your art and let it do the talking.
Surround yourself with people who genuinely care for you and who understand business and law.
What advice can you give to artists who are going through depression?
It’s important to seek professional help.
On a brighter note, how does your calendar look for the rest of this festive?
Excited to be doing some shows in and around Botswana, SA and The US this festive season.
Wow, that’s exciting! Besides winning big and placing Botswana high internationally, what else do you do?
I curate events under Naked Soul.
We just had a very successful picnic this October featuring some of Botswana’s most talented artists including: Jordan Moozy, Zuziwe Mavuma and Msaki just to name a few.
Naked Soul will be curating a lot more experiences in 2023.
Are you seeing someone?
Fair enough! And finally, for the last time this year, Thank God It’s Friday, what are you up to at the weekend?
I am in Maun this weekend.
Doing a few performances and spending quality time with my family.