Zero to hero

Portia Mlilo
CHAMPION: Oliiver the Poet
Unknown artist wins Africa theme song competition

Local poet, Oliver Gaolaolwe, was thrust into international stardom last week when he was announced the winner of the coveted Africa Theme Song competition for the 2021 Africa Music Challenge.

His song became the theme song for the Africa Day commemoration organised by Africa Sports Ventures Group (ASVG).

The 27-year-old artist from Kang emerged the winner in a stiff competition that had attracted over 400 submissions from artists around the African continent.

Locally, six Botswana artists had made it to the top 20, and Gaolaolwe and David Golekwang proceeded to be in the top 5.

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Gaolaolwe’s winning song will also be translated into all African languages for appreciation by a wider audience.

Our Reporter, Portia Mlilo, had a chat with this up-and-coming artist about the award and his career journey in the music industry.

Zero to hero
CHAMPION: Oliver the Poet

Q. How do you feel after winning this competition?

A. I feel great and honoured.

I am new in the industry and still working on my first album, I do not have much experience and have never worked with any big artist.

This is a great challenge.

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Q. What does winning this challenge mean to you?

A. It means a lot.

This is the beginning of greater things and this will contribute immensely to the growth of my career.

People do not know me in the music industry and I have won an international award.

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The competition will give me exposure locally and continentally.

This will completely change my music career and I have started receiving calls from big artists who want to do some collaborations.

Q. What are the benefits that come with this award apart from getting exposure?

A. Hahaha!

There is a cash prize, 1000 USD, and a trophy.

It also comes with a recording deal with the digital music company, HITLAB, based in London.

This is the company that records the music of renowned superstar, Akon, and I wish to collaborate with him on one of my songs.

Q. Take us through the competition requirements, composing the song, and the final submission.

A. My Manager, Kopano Boduwe, is the one who informed me about this challenge and I developed an interest.

I went to the studio, made research, and wrote down the lyrics about Africa, our lives, and culture.

The instruments of the song were made by beating the dustbin in the studio.

That was it.

I think it was not a difficult task because I am an African and the competition was about my continent and our way of life.

I believe our way of life is the same and the only difference is we speak different languages.

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Q. When did you develop an interest in music?

A. I think I was born with this talent.

Sometimes I’d annoy my family because from a young age, I would sing and beat the tables and they would complain that I was noisy.

The teacher who identified my talent and recruited me to join the school choir was Mma Garebakwena when I was in Standard One at Lekgwapheng Primary School.

I have won trophies for my schools from primary to Matsha College.

I have all singing voices except the base.

I am a self-taught guitarist.

I bought my guitar in 2017.

I am the defending guitarist champion for the Lobatse Constituency Arts competitions.

Q. How easy or difficult is it to be a musician in Botswana?

A. It is not easy.

I am just passionate about music otherwise I would quit.

I am lucky to have a good manager.

The biggest challenge is money and it is not easy to find sponsors especially when you are not known.

For me to shoot the video, I had to raise money to pay the production company.

I am an auto mechanic but I hardly have any cars to fix because I spend most of my time doing music.

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your music career?

A. Before the pandemic, I used to make money and Covid has collapsed our industry.

Covid has stopped everything and we are stuck.

We just wish the government would acquire enough vaccines to vaccinate the larger population to allow us to host shows.

Q. What does it take for one to be the best artist?

A. Just be yourself, be unique and creative!

You can benchmark and learn from the legends but do not be a copycat.

Be patient.

I participated in the My Star competition and was the only artist who sang a Setswana song not because I couldn’t sing in English.

I am glad that now I have won an international competition singing in my language.

You should love your work and give it all you can.

Know what your audience likes and get their feedback even through social media.

You should also set some goals and aim to achieve them.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. I draw my inspiration from God and I am what I am today because of Him.

Sometimes when I am sleeping, I dream of a song, and it can only be God.

Q. What are your plans with music?

A. I have always had a dream to raise my country’s flag.

I want to collaborate with big artists internationally.

I would love to work with George Michael of Sierra Leone. He was part of the competition singing Reggae, and Vusi Mahlasela from South Africa.

My first album is 70% complete and I have worked with one of the best local artists, Kabelo Mogwe of Culture Spears, in a song called Nta Huduga.

The name of the album is ‘Mxuthu’ and it consists of nine songs.

It is a folk and contemporary album.

My manager is working on registering my company with Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) this week.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. It’s all about music.

I am working on my first album so I will be in the studio this weekend.

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