The inseparable singers of love notes
They are probably the most noticeable and active of Francistown’s musical couples.
However, despite their popularity the house kwasa duo of Madala vs KellyJess are unassuming and wave away the suggestion that they are Botswana’s music power couple.
The award winning duo have been creating waves in the country’s entertainment scene since the turn of the millennium and now, after almost two decades in the industry, they are ready to claim their rightful place on the musical throne.
Both winners of the popular Presidential Arts Awards, Madala and KellyJess are perhaps a living legacy of former President Ian Khama.
While they are known for their electrifying stage performances and risqué dance moves, it is the couple’s love notes sung behind closed doors that has captured the imagination of their loyal fan base.
On the 24th of March this year Onkagetse Nfila aka Madala, 33, proposed to his 32-year-old girlfriend and bandmate Keletso Madubeko aka KellyJess.
In this interview the couple opens up to Voice reporter Kabelo Dipholo.
Q. Congratulations on your recent engagement. How did he propose?
KellyJess: He went down on one knee and popped the question.
I was totally blown away because I never thought my man was that romantic.
He had this all thought out. There I was thinking I was going to a friend’s party only to fall into a romantic surprise, my own engagement party with family and friends in the music industry.
Q. Was it totally out of the blue?
KJ: Not really – he has always said he wanted to marry me.
I had long known that one day we’d get married but I didn’t expect an engagement ring on that evening and I certainly didn’t expect him to go to such lengths to make the day so special.
Q. Exciting stuff.
Marriage has become a source of heartache for a lot of people, especially in the entertainment scene.
Q. Why did you decide to go that route?
Madala: Being a couple and working together needs commitment.
It helps us to be focused and business-wise it saves us a lot.
After living together for sometime I felt we always make sound decisions when we put our heads together.
The little that we make we can evenly share and take care of our baby.
Q. Oh, there’s a baby. How did that happen?
MD: (Chuckles) Yes, we have a five-year-old son called Romeo.
Q. Kindly take us back to where it all started.
MD: My musical career started in 2002 in my home village Tamasane.
I released an Afro Pop album ‘Unono’ which was quickly followed by another one titled ‘Lewarawara’.
I later met another guy who ironically was also named Madala and together we formed a group called ‘BoMadala’ and released a traditional album.
After four years as a traditional artist I relocated to Francistown and went solo under the name ‘Madala’.
I’d later form the group ‘Madala and The Mad Girls’ of ‘Thebetha’ fame.
In 2011 and 2012 the group members were finalists in the My African Dream competition under the Best Junior Category.
Q. When did you meet?
KJ: We met in 2013. He was a choreographer for my group KellyJess Sister and he helped us to win a Presidential Art Award as the Best Newcomers.
It was an award he had won the previous year and we roped him in to help us. I was already a seasoned artist by local standards.
My career took off in 2007 in my home village Tutume with the release of my first Afro Pop album ‘Botshelo’.
It was an album that told my life story as an orphan from a family of two.
I relocated to Francistown after the release of my album where I later joined Chase Dipapa as a dancer.
In 2009 I joined Cisco B as a dancer and I was driving with him on that fateful night in 2010 when a freak car accident claimed his life – three of us survived that accident.
A year later I released a House kwasa album and a DVD ‘Tribute to Cisco B’.
I was on my musical journey when I met Madala in 2013 and we have been making music together for five years.
Q. What is KellyJess?
KJ: KellyJess comes from Kelly and Jessica who’s my cousin.
We used to work together but I decided to keep the name even after going solo.
Q. Your star soared last year with your hit ‘Tlhomela’. What are you working on for 2018?
MD: We are currently in the process of shooting a video for ‘Tlhomela’ and we also have a new single ‘Lerompi’ featuring C-Ru, Python, Mjein and Mjoe.
I also have to add that our careers really took shape after we came together.
We worked with different ministries and departments.
The list includes Ministry of Health, Roads Transport and Safety and many others.
We are also regulars at different political rallies, which has also helped to expose us to a more mature audience.
Q. How do you deal with fans who openly flirt with your partner at music festivals?
MD: She’s a strikingly beautiful girl and she gets a lot of attention from men, but I know it comes with the territory so I never worry about it.
I get a lot of attention from female fans but I wear ‘dark glasses’ when I’m working so I don’t see what I’m not supposed to see. (laughs).
Q. You are a popular couple and have won and been nominated for local awards. What is your ultimate goal?
Our dream is to perform to an international crowd.
We really want to perform outside Botswana to grow our fan base.
Realising our dream however starts this year in June.
We have a gig in Zimbabwe on June 14th and we hope that this is the beginning of ‘Madala vs Kellyjess’ arrival on the international scene.
Q. Thanks for that enlightening interview but before you go. Thank God it’s Friday what are you up to this weekend?
We’ll be working as usual.
On Friday we are sharing the stage with Charma Gal and Culture Spears at Donga BDF.
On Saturday we are performing in Ramokgwebana alongside Jojo.
We hope to see you there.