When we first envisioned this platform, we simply just set out to establish a central repository for BW youth culture so as to try facilitate a conversation about Botswana Music and urban youth culture. We just to did it because 7-10 years ago Botswana Youth Culture was not searchable and felt that as it emerged and was kind of thrusting itself into it’s new age there was eminent danger of our urban culture story going undocumented. It’s not to say that no one was doing it, it’s just that at the time of our founding it was and still largely is very difficult to search for, find and follow the narrative.
There’s little evidence recorded of our pioneers, try going back to the late 80s and 90s and you’ll almost think we started yesterday simply because the 2000s was a little more recorded as well as a bit more fortunate to have found stories written about them (think Lapologa, Mmegi, Daily News in Botswana); they had the emergence of urban radio platforms like Yarona & Gabz FM doing their part to echo their voice, mostly as audio broadcasts which (even if archived) are generally inaccessible today.
I would personally love to be able to search and find the story of ealrly hiphop here; the stories of Shakes Da Mix, one of the radio legends credited with creating a space for BW’s hiphop pioneers, Nomadic (certainly an early mover and catalyst in the Motswako or native langauge, Setswana scene).
I’ve head stories about Skizo aka Daddy Ski and his work in music (ask Charles Favi Motsemme), but i’ve no way of exploring his work and then headspace, his motivation for doing what he did and his general impact beyond what i’ve picked up in conversations (all I can say at this point is he’s rumored to have been a key player in Kalawa Jazmee, one of South Africa’s biggest recording companies and countless people in the Botswana space credit him with some major milestones).
How did others like Dj Sid go on to found recording spaces like P-Side and form formidable collectives which included Mr T, Fosta Juliano and record labels with like-minded culture shifters like Eric Ramco who weekend with Prez Beatz, Goof, Vee and is almost wholly responsible for the success that was to be enjoyed by Botswana traditional music groups like Matsieng (which in themselves are huge influences in urban culture, not in the way the west defines it but in our own way).
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Cashless Society conceptualised and recorded their award winning Hottentot Hop in the early 2000s and would actually love to know if they feel their vision was never realised, ahead of it’s time or how they felt about the reception they got continentally.
I’ve heard about dudes in Francistown that really did a lot for the Ghetto with crews including Lords Of The Ghetto becoming some of the early names and voices who were able to cross over and have their voices broadcast on Rb2. Little information is available on these key players, one would be mistaken to only credit the generation of rappers including Magilo, Apollo D, Bangu and others with the establishment of Kalanga rap, Maun’s also had it’s fair share of influential youth, sadly not much information is available around their work too.
In the year, 2009 Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story.” It was based on “what happens when human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative”: for example, Botswana as having no back story when it comes to it’s Urban Culture and how the world and Botswana very youth perceive where we come from or even conclude that there was no success from those who came before them.
To quote David Brooks of New York Times, “Her point was that each individual life contains a heterogeneous compilation of stories” and in our case most have been lost and cannot be referenced as no record exists, not even as academic work so as to even influence today’s and tomorrow’s youth in the same way that Grand Master Flash or Shaka Zulu are referenced in those culture’s narratives by their own.
You wouldn’t be wrong if you asked yourself the question, “what is the point of all this?” Well, our journey in documenting and amalgamating stories from Botswana has been one of self-discovery and the point today is to establish a way forward, a challenge of sorts to build and leave behind a more concise record.
Our journey has led us to ask a lot of questions, prompted a lot of outreaches and is one that still sees us want to tell more of the current, past and establish a space for the future ones to know that their voice is important and someone cared enough to create a space for it to thrive. That is why we’re having conversations with the likes of Mpho Sebina, Kwaku Gyanteh and will be doing so with many others
So then, we’re designing Connect The Culture to be that space, one that’ll also connect producers to sample music from here at home because of it’s importance in differentiating their sound from that of the rest of the world.
I’d personally love to see a collision of our traditional ways of dancing with the new swanky moves that the youth love (Kgalagadi Dance meets New York Street), Diphala tsa Ramotswa meets Bosa Nova, the writings of our forefathers and great musicians like Ratsie Setlhako meeting Fela Kuti or Bessie Head, Wilson Ngoni’s super painting work meets Cornbread on times square or Ntirelang Berman’s world tour as he plays in Tianjing.
Connect the Culture is aiming to be a base space for all these dreams and conversations around urban youth’s influences, creating a melting pot with our traditions including the ones they are birthing with the hope that 10 years from now a more cohesive record of what we can be exists and when we’re Googled, the world will find Botswana’s voice more prominent.
A Weekend to Remember: Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop at The Hennessy Back To The City Festival.
By Eddy Mihigo
Special Correspondent from Botswana
Gaborone, Botswana – On the 7th October 2023, Back To The City made history by celebrating the 50th birthday of Hip-Hop and the 40th anniversary of South African Hip-Hop at its residence venue, Mary Fitzgerald, right in front of Museum Africa in Newtown, Johannesburg. The festival was made even more memorable with Hennessy as its flagship sponsor, a partnership that has deep roots in the world of Hip-Hop.
Hennessy, along with Sprite, boasts the longest and most consistent relationship with the Hip-Hop community, making their support of Back To The City a perfect alignment.
Just like last year when the partnership between Hennessy and Back To The City began, the festival welcomed a star-studded lineup of South African Hip-Hop and street culture icons. L-Tido, Zingah, Yolophonik, JR, DJ Sabby, and more enjoyed the festival from the Hennessy VIP area, where the Hennessy Boombox Viewing Deck offered festivalgoers a chance to savor Hennessy cocktails with the best view of the stage. Inside the Boombox, the Interactive “Letter to Hip-Hop” allowed participants to pen their personal messages to Hip-Hop for inclusion in the South African Hip-Hop Museum.
Back To The City has always been known for its ability to strike a balance between old and new acts, but this year, with the 50th and 40th anniversary milestones, the lineup was particularly nostalgic. On the main stage, contemporary stars like Big Zulu, 25K, Maglera Doe Boy, Loatinover Pounds, Zulumecca, Loki, Touchline, and Gigi Lamayne shared the spotlight with yesteryear icons such as Optical Illusion, iFani, Tha Hymphatic Thabs, and Township Frequency.
The Hennessy Moment was a highlight, featuring performances by DJ Ready D, Stogie T, and A-Reece, along with a monumental rendition of Riky Rick’s ‘Amantombazane (Remix)’ by Maggz, Kwesta, Ginger Trill, Kid X, Nadia Nakai, and Okmalumkoolkat – aptly described as “the SA Hip-Hop All Stars” by Moozlie.
US acts The Beatnuts, J-Live, and Mobb Deep’s Havoc took festival goers back to the 90s and early 2000s with a string of hits and classics.
The festival’s lineup served as a timeline, commemorating the different eras of South African Hip-Hop, but not everyone was entirely pleased with the curation. Some Twitter thought leaders raised concerns about the time slots of certain performers and the prevalence of old-school artists.
Criticism aside, it’s worth noting that the main stage of any festival isn’t necessarily the place for innovation or introducing new talent. Back To The City’s Play stage, where cutting-edge and emerging acts like NotBenjamin, XXC Legacy, Static Flo, Lucasraps, SPeeKa, and more performed, provided a platform for up-and-coming artists to shine. Under the same stage, B-Boys and B-Girls showcased their moves in a competition judged by legends Mr. Vouks and some members of Prophets Of Da City. The annual 10K MC Challenge also found its home on that stage, where emerging lyricists battled it out for the ultimate prize, ultimately won by Mthizo from Soweto.
As usual, the festival featured a plethora of food and clothing stalls, and graffiti artists adorned the bridge’s pillars with colorful murals, paying homage to Hip-Hop legends like Riky Rick and DJ Kool Herc.
Back To The City is a day and night festival, and this year, some fans arrived late in the twilight hours, missing out on the early festivities. It’s crucial for fans to show up on time to fully immerse themselves in the festival’s activities and support the artists.
This year’s edition also introduced a Dancehall stage, offering a serene, picnic-like experience with deejays and selectors playing the best riddims.
In its 17th year, Back To The City remains a festival that brings all elements of Hip-Hop together, paying respect to both the old and new school. While this year’s edition may have felt less packed than previous ones, it was a testament to the evolving nature of Hip-Hop in South Africa. The absence of fallen heroes like AKA and Riky Rick was felt, reminding us of the enduring impact they had on the culture.
Back To The City continues to be a vital platform, ensuring that the heartbeat of Hip-Hop remains strong not only in South Africa but throughout the continent. We can’t wait to see what the next edition has in store for us.
Connect The Culture: Enjoy streaming while stayng in control
Preference, convenience and overall awesome experience are dominating conversations in the marketing, business growth, operations and go to market strategies with clients I’ve had the opportunity to interact with. The way we listen to music, order food, purchase clothing, connect with friends and binge on content from anywhere would be such a strange thing to witness for someone who would suddenly awakened from deep sleep since the 70s.
For today’s music junkie, having access to preferred playlists at all times is a now awfully important need, more expressly so in the age of compressed music libraries and ‘tap-in-and-listen’ music stores known as streaming services. The battle to deliver awesome experiences is without doubt taking place on Web 2.0, the mobile application frontier and those that hit the market with a superior product to rival your Apple Musics, Amazons, Alexas, Netflixs and Ubers of this world will unquestionably have an upper hand. For mobile brands in Botswana the challenge is certainly on to deliver the best experience for their customers.
Enjoying all this on today’s power devices additionally requires often-expensive data for the ‘latest most banging’ music aficionado. If you like myself are one of those ‘social bundle’ internet types, then you would know ‘the struggle is real’ if you’re constantly trying to stream yours. Staying hooked to yours is of paramount importance and having you pulse on the culture is something that no mobile service provider should be cutting you off from.
Watch Kwaku Gyanteh’s ‘Connect the Culture’ Story
I added a new SIM to my mix a few weeks back and I must say, the decision to try BTC Mobile and their new Mobile App paired with their crazy Turn up Bundles has been a real revelation…15GB for 300 bucks?? Unreeeal! Being an avid Apple Music customer for the last two years, I’ve repeatedly found myself easily losing track of the amount of data I burn through as I jam Veezo, Thato Jesicca, Charma Gal, Frost among many others on my BW playlists. With BTC Turn Up Bundles I’ve basically got enough data for my culture binges and have some data left over to keep EBW Magazine’s content up to date while on the go or at home hotspotting.
BTC’s cool new App comes in handy in helping me manage my preferred use and augmenting my experience, not only do I get to stream as I want but I also have the ability to track my usage, recharge on the go if I run out and also get some news on the company.
You do have to manage your data actively though, lest this be misconstrued as ‘a dummy’s memoire to losing all your data’. I also pair their App with Google’s Datally (download it, you’ll thank me later) which allows me to have a floating bubble on screen. For now, it’s back to the music
The Awards, The Music & The Value Chain – Part 2
Some of the sponsors on the night will have awarded cash prizes ($$$), some will get endorsement deals and some sponsorships of sorts. We’ve decided to have look at the winners at the 2019 ceremony through the wallet’s eye, the artist’s wallet that is. How are your favorites a.k.a the award winners from this past ceremony fairing in terms of capturing part of the value generated against their product. Some will win awards, some have been nominated and some obviously didn’t make the list, so we go category winner by category winner to interrogate the business related.
Best DJ – DJ Scratch:
Someone made the argument on social about why DJs get nominated for a music awards show if they’ve not released any music and I have to say I do not know why either. For all we know DJs do make money gigging on most weekends, dare I say though that most of the music they play is still outer-national, I do not know Scratch personally but I do know for sure he’s one of the most booked. It would be interesting to hear from him how being the 2019 award winner will impact his personal income and views on being a DJ without actual music out.
Artist of the Year/People’s Choice – Han C:
Han C has been one of the most impactful artists of the last two year’s having won an award since the first ceremony where he was celebrated. He ran with that first award dropped an album, two heavy singles and countless feature on the year in review. He was probably one of the most booked artists of the period and definitely made a lot of business in 2018. It’s safe to say he’s not just winning awards but he also winning the bag race if at all there is one. He also won a cash prize courtesy of a sponsorship by FNB, overall a great year in business for him.
Song of the Year – MMP Family feat Charma Gal – Tuesday
Best Kwaito – MMP Family feat Charma Gal – Tuesday
Best Collaboratio – MMP Family feat Charma Gal – Tuesday
MMP Family are a great example of how to capitalize on the good PR, great decisions around management and churning out the music that will win you the awards and get you the business you need to keep going. They also won one the awards sponsored by FNB Botswana on the night, their bag is certainly being taken care of well judging by the number of bookings. It’s also interesting to note that they did drop an album in the period.
Best Male Single – Berry Bone feat Han C – Mafurafura
It’s never easy determining the kind of business that producers make from their money especially when they don’t happen to be deejays. The truth of the matter is Han C will probably make more money from this collaboration that Berry Bone even though Berry owns the song. Mafurafura, written by Han C was one of 2018 biggest joints and I don’t seem to remember Berry headlining any big gigs. The issue of performance rights comes in here, where the best possible way for the song owner to make money is for mechanical deal to be struck by the two camps. He could also license the music and give it further longevity by getting brand deals going around the music. That said it definitely points to the need for the art community to morph the performance space thereby allowing for producers and other indie brands to capitalize on their it tracks.
Best Newcomer – Ice Cold Mob
Best RnB – Ice Cold Mob
Ban T and Han C are some of the previous winners of the newcomer award, the 2018 category was hotly contested and I personally had my money on Motlha to bag this – I’ve good-naturedly been proven wrong and I’m actually happy to see twists like these take place in the BW. Ice Cold Mob came in with a fresh new flavor and their winning song also happened to bag them the best RnB award. I’m not sure how they fared money-move wise but 2019 is certainly the time they should be prepping to secure the whole bang. Botswana is ready for a new sound, not just your regular-degular but something to keep them moving besides the dominating sound of dance music and how much gwalla they’ll come make waits to be seen on the other side of the year 2019. Congratulations on this achievement fellas!
Best Female Single – Thato Jessica
She was nominated in the Best RnB category which was bagged by Ice Cold Mob but went on to win the Best Female Single, it’s also worth noting that she was the only female winner (if you discount Charma gal’s MMP Family collaboration). Thato Jessica’s pivot from gospel music to the mainstream was a well calculated move for the songstress, her song ‘Problems’ with Veezo bangs and one wouldn’t be blamed in thinking it was an import at first listen. She’s smooth, understands her vocal range and can actually make heavy music. The urban sound in BW struggles to penetrate the big money market though, like…Charma Gal, Vee, Franco and Dramaboi type mainstream penetration. We’ll be awaiting to see just how much leverage her award-winning status outside of getting radio spins. CosBots doesn’t seem to pay that much so we can’t really say her money will stream through from that avenue, we’re wishing Thato the best of luck especially as she’s already exploring international avenues for her music.
Best Hip-Hop/Motswako – Ban T – Don Dada
If there’s one artist that has understood the value of branding, momentum and riding the wave that you create as an artist – it has to be Ban T. The ‘Why So’ star has been churning out steady work for the past 3 years, winning a few awards on that journey and basically influencing and challenging the known sound of the leaders of the new school; you really would be in denial if you thought otherwise. I gave him no chance when I saw the nominees’ list but then he won it – deservedly so and in the true mark of someone that knows how to cultivate business he went for the bag and is intending to hold onto it. #OTV aka Off The Vapours with Veezo just dropped and it’s sure to sustain him for the next six months or so, that’s a sure way to ensure you’re on the line-up for some of the years earliest concerts and keep you in the promoters corner.
Icon Award – Mr O. Wannete
In a continuation of the conversation around promoters and bookies, last year was certainly a monster year for Mr. O. He did win the recognition that he’s deserving of by bagging the 2018 Icon Award at the YAMAs. He also happened to have received a lot of business as he played some of the year’s biggest shows including G.I.M.C. The award also sets him up as a firm favorite to be an MVP in the deejay space for the coming year, on the bookies will want to have on his line up. He’s also dropped hints at dropping new music, which would really help make sense of the ‘deejays being nominated even though they have no music out’ thing.
Social Media – Boogie Sid
This category had 8 nominees in it, some of whom were and are true social media favorites. I asked the question in a discussion with Kedi of Yarona FM and Kwaku Gyanteh how this award’s nominees list made sense in the context of a music award show and I guess Boogie Sid winning it kind of brings it home then. Social Media is a huge part of music marketing and digital as a whole has definitely shaped the way people, interact with, create business and grow fan bases. This man here is winning this award for the 2nd time and it would seem he knows exactly how to work these tweets to make the business count. Congratulations Boogie!
I really love DJk1’s song, in truth I did not even know the song was local. It’s puzzling then to think about why he was not the festive seasons most booked Dj. Re a inyatsa tota rele Batswana, I might be judging us harshly but if this was some Harrison Crump or Loui Vega song some of you promoters would have been clamoring at his signature in order to have him headline your Palapye Clap Your Hands and so on. The truth is K1 probably has not done enough to expose his brand to the right people and therefore needs to do a bit more to build up on his win from the 2018 YAMAs. His affiliation with Dj Benny T should help him and I certainly wish to see us having a new house music superstar in the BW. We’re hoping that the conversation around how much business he made is a lot more fruitful at the end of 2019. Way to go #K1!
Best Producer – Bangu
Let’s rest a little bit here on the meaning of this award here and the money related to it. It’s the freaking music awards guys and one of the most important elements to making some of your most loved music is the production, putting the songs together takes a whole lot of work. Someone has to be sitting somewhere building the stems together, getting inspiration, working with a composer, testing the melodies, being led by a songstress’ idea and finally putting it all together when the overall beat is done to give you your favorite productions. There’s a few levels to this whole producer thing and the money really isn’t that handsome. Bangu’s influence in the sound of the BW has been immense in the last two years and I think it’s safe to say there’s a bit of business that he’s been realizing together with the team at hearbeat sounds. What I’d really love to see is for everyone that’s involved in the production value chain getting checks as long as those bagged by the artists they make the music for. Shout out to all of BW’s producers, the very people that lay the baseline for the music that results in there being awards shows because there wouldn’t be a need for award shows in modern music without the beat to keep the music going.
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