Botswana’s famous traditional singer Ditiro Leero is an artist who needs no introduction.
With six albums to his name and having worked with other musicians, he sure can be counted amongst the country’s celebrated musicians.
Despite his success, life has however not been a bed of roses.
He served time in jail for defilement, a phase in his life that he doesn’t want to talk about though he says it changed him for the better. Since his early release from prison for good behaviour in December 2015, the former award winning Matsieng group lead singer has continued to do what he does best, entertaining while also mentoring the youth and assisting the less privileged.
In this interview with The Voice Reporter Onneile Setlalekgosi, Leero whose latest album is titled ‘Maganamokgwa’ talks about early years of his career, the dark times and forging ahead despite the setbacks and plans for the future.
Q. You are passionate about including deep Setswana lyrics in your songs, when did you discover the talent?
My love for music started at a very early stage of my life as I was a traditional dancer while at primary school. I also learnt the art from my father’s family in Sesung village. The family elders were born with the art which is more like a tradition. They used to dance and sing in Setswana and that made fall in love with the music. From there I saw the need to practice, develop and take the music beyond boarders.
Q. With the way you are good with Setswana, one might think you also studied the language…
The talent I have is a gift from God. I never studied any course to know our mother tongue.
Q. Your talent took the traditional group Machesa to greater heights, what was your major contribution to the group?
I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I am a star when it comes to ‘Phatisi’ dance and creative poet. I ventured into music industry as a dancer for the late Lebasho in Jwaneng who later moved to Gaborone, and I later joined Machesa traditional group. I was pretty young by then and my first album with Machesa called Tshipidi was very good so much that it scooped the Kora award.
Q. You immensely contributed in forming the Matsieng group, but later abandoned it. Why?
I did not really abandon the group. After recording ‘Semakaleng Thulamela’ in 2005, members started leaving the reason being that things were not going accordingly. Many people thought I was fighting for songs with Tsankana, but that was not the case.
Q. Do you regret what befell Matsieng group?
What pains me most is that our fans used to love the group so much. When group members went separate ways I decided to quit music.
Q. But you rekindled the career?
I believe God restored my music career because after the fight we had at Matsieng I was approached by a famous man called ‘Seabelo Modibe’ also known as ‘SB’, who is well known for Lekoko entertainment. He convinced me not to quit and went to an extent of paying for me to record an album which had hits such as ‘Molemo wa kgang, Kgosi Lepenyola and Ba ntshodile.
Q. You have recorded albums ‘Mme mpeole ditedu, Botshelo jwame and many more. What inspires you?
I am very passionate about music. There are so many things that musicians can sing about.I sing to motivate, teach and inspire. So the passion I have for music drives me.
Q. You were jailed for defilement in 2012, can we talk about it…
(Sighs) That is now water under the bridge. I won’t discuss it much but what I can tell you is that I have no grudges against the family. I will never forget the day I got sentenced. The magistrate who sentenced me sympathized with me and even said I didn’t deserve what I was going through. But I still went to prison and have since reconciled with the family that accused me.
Q. People often learn from hard situations, is there anything positive you learnt from the defilement case?
It was the darkest phase of my life but I learnt a lot from it. Many people often think they learn from their mistakes but I believe people should also learn from other people’s mistakes as well. The whole situation turned me into a good advisor. It really changed the way I think and look at life in general.
Q. Did spending time in prison have an impact in your career?
There were both good and bad things in prison but I remained focused and also stayed away from drugs. But the most important thing is that I found God in prison. It changed my life and turned me into somebody more responsible. I also learnt some skills while in prison such as playing drums and I do play guitars very well. Prison grew my patience and taught me to remain hopeful as a human being.
Q. I understand you are a family man, anything you would like to share about your family?
Family is my biggest priority. I stay with my wife and kids and will be tying the knot before year end. I went to prison when my wife was seven months pregnant and it really broke my heart.
Q. You are such a positive musician, who are your role models?
I am inspired by artists such as Kgobola, the late Judith Sefhako and many other legends of traditional music.
Q. Have you ever been approached by artists from abroad for collaborations?
Many artists across Southern Africa approach me for collaborations. I just keep them waiting as I am still busy compiling my own albums. I am also a song writer and I have many songs that I am planning to give to upcoming artists.
Q. Any word for local musicians?
As local artists we should remain united and interact with communities that support us. Artist should also be original and remain true to themselves and their fans
Q. We are approaching a weekend. Where will you be on Friday?
I will be at the farm with my kids and family.