Ndingo Johwa at Supa Ngwao

Updated: October 5, 2014

by Shingirai Madondo, reprinted from theVoiceBW

Ndingo Johwa at Supa Ngwao

Legendary Ika-jazz maestro Ndingo Johwa on Sunday night serenaded his fans at Supa Ngwao Museum in Francistown.

With the Independence celebratory mood gripping the country’s second largest city, the show was slated for the museum for fans to enjoy the holidays.

Johwa, a man who has been in the music industry for a substantial period of time, is one of the few musicians singing in the Kalanga language. And this has made him a darling to the Kalanga speaking fans.

A lot of the players in the music industry especially from the northern part of the country hardly sing in their own language.

The issue of language and acoustic sound of the Kalanga jazz music has propelled the ageing singer to high levels. Alongside his two dancing queens, Johwa’s shows have always been most attended gigs especially North of Debete.

The show at Supa Ngwao is likely to turnaround the museum into a entertainment centre of choice for artwork and music lovers.

From Supa Ngwao, Johwa will perform at Tutume, Masunga and Nkange.

Still going strong at 77 — Kalanga dancer Basetse Mamo

Updated: October 5, 2014

By Pini Bothoko, reprinted from MmegiOnline

FRANCISTOWN: As she performs energy-sapping Kalanga moves at the age of 77, the only thing that differentiates Basetse Mamo from dancers young enough to be her grandchildren is her grey hair.

A living legend from the small village of Jackalas No 2 in the north east, the septuagenarian is an extraordinary entertainer whose rattle-wrapped legs assume a life of their own.  For hours, she jumps, stomps her feet and contorts her body this way and that to the delight of onlookers.

Mamo was in the thick of things last weekend as she led the Jackalas No 2 traditional dance troupe, Bongolo Dza Ntongwa.

They performed their Hosana dances at the Zhizha Food and Music Festival held at Kuminda Farm on the outskirts of Marobela village.

The mother of six, three women and three men, told Arts & Culture that her all-enduring love for iKalanga culture and traditional dance is the reason she is not throwing in the towel.   As an accomplished dancer she is in the twilight of her life, three years shy of the ripe old age of 80, but vows that she is still fit enough to go ‘cha-cha-cha-cha’ in the ‘tanga’ (arena).

“I am a born dancer. I have been dancing since I was a child of about 10-years-old.  This is where my passion lies. I am a Kalanga woman and want to teach young generations our culture.  I can only do this through dance,” she says.

Mamo says her talent was revealed to her in a dream where she was shown the dance moves and the songs to sing.

“When I woke up I was able to sing the song I was shown in the dream and I also performed the dance moves without much ado,” she says.

For years Mamo has enthralled crowds all over Botswana with not only the dance moves, but also a stick shaped in the form of a gun that she holds and aims as if it is a real rifle.

Mamo says that she is talented in all kinds of iKalanga traditional dances like Nkomoto, Ndazula, Hoso, but mostly her love lies in Hosana dance, which is performed at rainmaking rituals.

From time immemorial, the Kalanga tribe has been known for rainmaking rituals, which involve using ancestors as intermediaries between them and a deity they call Mwali who supposedly lives in the hills on the outskirts of Masunga village.

The Hosana dancers make yearly pilgrimages to the hills where they dance and sing for Mwali and Mamo will be among them.

“We go there every year before the rainy season begins to plead for good rains so that we can have a good harvest as we survive on farming. When we perform the Hosana dance in the hills, pleading with Mwali for rain, we would be wearing our sacred clothing.  I cannot describe them to you because I do not want to disclose what we do at our sacred place of prayer for rains,” she says.

She says that there is also a place called Nzeze on the outskirts of Mapoka where they gather with others from Zimbabwe and for days they would sing and dance to the accompaniment of drums as they pray for rain.  On such occasions, cows and goats would be slaughtered and traditional beer brewed exclusively for the appeasement of the ancestors so that they bring good rains.

Mamo says that the Hosanas (as the dancers are called) are used to plead for rain as they sing while beating unique drums.

“Re simolola go ‘locha’ (pleading) re kopa pula (We start pleading for rains) around August until beginning of October wearing our special gear, while singing and dancing Hosana and beating drums.  But once the rains start, we sing without drums because if you beat drums the rain clouds will disperse,” Mamo sayss.

She says that she has assisted many groups and students in their traditional groups teaching them all kinds of the Kalanga traditional dance and they are successful in the entertainment industry.

“I assisted groups like Dikakapa traditional group teaching them Hosana and Nkomoto dance.  I have also assisted a majority of schools in the North East and Central Districts.

“I have won countless awards performing at the Presidential competitions with my traditional group. Even now I am still showing the ropes to upcoming dancers with proper Kalanga dance moves,” she says. She warns that children nowadays have a tendency of dancing Hosana bedecked in the black gowns, which are supposed to be worn by dancers during rituals. She says by doing so, the children are actually putting a curse on themselves, which may lead to them becoing mad.

“It is not everyone who should perform Hosana. It is exclusively for the Hosanas (the dancers).  As for Hoso, Ndazula and Nkomoto, there is nothing wrong with performing the dances,” she says.

She says that it is not only about dancing, as there has to be a proper way of clapping hands and beating of drums to produce a unique Kalanga rhythm.

Mamo dismisses the allegations that dancing Hosana can lead to being a Sangoma, explaining that it is a chosen talent. She says that even though she has been a dancer all her life, she has never had those attacks. Mamo has been to China, European countries whose names she cannot remember and Cote de Ivore.

“I was happy that people in those countries enjoyed our performances even though they did not understand our language,” she says, lending credence to a popular saying that music is a universal language.

Winani Winnie Sekani: Moroka Is Where I Am From

Updated: September 11, 2012

by Bird Chan  — reprinted from iBotswana.co.bw

Winnie ‘Marco’ Sekani is the third born of four siblings raised by a single mother. Though she grew up in Gaborone, she hails from the village of Moroka; north of Botswana. Not only is this young lady a proud Kalanga but she speaks of the North with passion and vision. ‘Marco’ as she is affectionately known by those that she plays softball with; explains that the name came about because of her body size and speed during the games and because it’s a strong brand she does not mind.
She is currently the assistant Captain of the Botswana Senior Women`s National Team. She also added that she has been playing third base for the teams like BDF and Police for the past ten years. “I have represented Botswana Softball Association in Southern Africa and at International games like in the Caracas for Woman’s Championships 2010 in Venezuela”, she said.

Truly a woman of diverse talents. Sekani takes IBotswana through her journey in music, from singing in the school choir, church choir to the point where she noticed a loop hole in the market; to promote her own Kalanga culture. She together with her older sister Kudzani Sekani, they identified Afro Jazz as their ardor in expressing themselves and promoting their culture. They began putting their dream together with the name ‘Kanvuthu’ (meaning home) as their identity. With lyrics jotted down on paper and their vocal cords prepared; the duo produced the popular hit ‘Londolozela’ which took the airwaves by storm and was also performed on BTV`s Mokaragana programme.

Sekani stressed the challenges they faced from money to recording tracks, mastering and actually selling their produce. But she is quick to note that after the first album they had become wiser because of their past experiences so through divine connections they managed to give Batswana the single “Lorato” which a video was immediately shot. “This is when doors started opening for us as through the South African High Commission in Botswana we went to perform at the Culture and Heritage 2011 celebrations in the Eastern Cape, South Africa”, she said. She has sang alongside big names such as Ndingo Jhowa, Lister Boleseng and has graced events like the Domboshaba Annual event, SA High Commission Tourism and Culture Gala Dinner 2011, Botswana National Sports Council Awards 2012 and SA High Commission Child Anti-Child trafficking Seminar 2012 to name but a few.

Winnie`s take on the music industry is that it needs someone who is hardworking, self motivated as not everyone will believe in your vision, a go-getter and the willingness to spend a little so that the public gets familiarized with your face and music. She believes that everyone with the passion can do it but “you need those that you can trust for support and advice as not everything will be smooth sail”, she added. Winnie dreams of being a role model that aspiring young Batswana could look up to not only in music but in sports also but she stresses that education is important as she is currently continuing her studies doing AAT.

Hosana dance group to perform in California

Updated: September 11, 2012

By Sesupo Rantsimako — reprinted from The Botswana Gazette,

FRANCISTOWN: The northern Botswana based traditional group, Chelenje chengwao, which specialises in Ikalanga dance style, Hosana, has been invited to perform in California, USA next month.

The group is set to leave the country at the end of June and stay in California for three weeks, touring and performing. “Our performances will be based much on promoting and preserving culture; including Hosana rain dances, sangoma traditional doctors’ dance, pre-healer and wedding dances,” the leader of the group, Ngwisiwa Ntongwa told Time Out.

Ntongwa said the invite followed 2010 performance at India Dasara Culture. “After our performance we were approached by one of California promoters, Mathews Livan who showed lot of interest in inviting us. We received the invitation to start our performance at Humblest University. From there we will tour California where they have organized shows,” he said.

He said other than promoting Botswana culture, their main aim is to raise funds to revive the dying Hosana culture. “Hosana cultural dance used be well known but it is dying slowly so we do not want this situation because this is the history of our forefathers hence needs to be respected. Our grandfathers used to have annual festivals praying for rain; we want to revive it,” Ntongwa pointed out.

He further noted that the group’s motivation is to create employment for the youth. “We started with 12 members but have grown to 14 and our intention is to join hands with other organizations to attain a position in the corporate world as the major culture driving force. Furthermore our goal is to establish resource centre where the market can get all related merchandising,” he said.

However, Ntongwa decried lack of sponsorship despite the invite. He lamented that the group is currently running around in order to source for funds. “Even though we have made some proposals to different companies they have not yet replied, but we are hoping for positive by the time they respond.”

Kalanga woso dance receives new attention

Updated: September 27, 2012

Matjinge Primary School in Matabeleland South was crowned the national winner of the Jikinya Primary Schools Dance festival in November 2011, introducing the traditional woso dance from Plumtree.  Now the dance is spreading and recently Amakhosi hosted an amabhiza workshop for teachers.

The Amabhiza dance is actually called “woso” in Kalanga and should be appropriately named, renowned traditionalist, Pathisa Nyathi, says.  Author of Zimbabwean Traditional Dances, Nyathi said it was important to know the dances and their origin. “I feel it is not fair for the dance to be popularised in SiNdebele while its real name is woso in Kalanga. It is a Kalanga dance and should be popularised in the language,” said Nyathi.

Plumtree dance makes waves in country

by Bongani Ndlovu, reprinted from the Chronicle.

AMABHIZA dance from Plumtree has made waves in the country after it was introduced to the Jikinya Dance Festival last year by Matjinge Primary School from Bulilima district of Matabeleland South province.

Matjinge Primary School pupils perform at the launch of Matabeleland South Province Culture Week at Chief Nyangazonke homestead in Matobo District

This shows that culture can be spread through art competitions as this year the main dance of the Jikinya dance competition for primary is the amabhiza dance.

The dance constitutes 70 percent of the marks and all dance groups are to do the dance with another traditional dance piece.

Matjinge Primary School has been on a national tour, which began last week on Saturday.

The school performed their dance at the national launch of Culture Week held at Bindura University of Technology in Mashonaland Central.

Thereafter their tour took them to Harare, then Midlands in Shurugwi, on Wednesday they were in Bulawayo and on Thursday they wrapped up their tour in Kezi at Chief Nyangazonke’s homestead, where the Matabeleland South provincial launch of Culture Week launch was held.

The man behind the school, Lucious Ncube, has a passion for traditional dance. Ncube said there was no secret to his success because there was no substitute for practice as this was the only way to perfect the amabhiza dance.

He said the problem that people had was they were consulting the wrong people to teach them the dances.

“These contemporary cultural groups teach people the wrong things when it comes to our dances. They have diluted the dances because they have modernised them and then we do not know the correct dances. We should shun them and consult the elders to do these dances,” said Ncube.

He said before they went for the Jikinya Dance Festival they went into a two-week camp with Inqama yophondo to perfect their dance.

“These elderly people are from the Ematojeni area of Matobo and they taught us the correct way to do the amabhiza dance. We realised that it was better to use their expertise to come up with a unique dance,” said Ncube.

He said amabhiza was a complicated dance that could not be taught in a day hence the need for constant practice.

“This dance is not like Macheso’s Zora Butter, it is complicated and that is why people take long to catch on. There are things like the coordination of the three drums and the use of the mandobo to control the dancer,” said Ncube.

He said the dance was called amabhiza because the dancer would be trying to emulate the movements of a horse.

“The male dancers will use horse tail hairs which are called itshoba that they will throw about and dance in step while the women clap and sing while some play the drums. The drums harmonise  to create the beat,” said Ncube.

He said the attire for the dance comprised black and white and his passion for perfection made him convince his headmaster to source the school’s attire from South Africa.

“The attire is black and white, no other colour. When you see red those colours are for the traditional healers, called izangoma or amantshomani. The way I pay attention to detail made me look for the costumes that these pupils are wearing from South Africa,” said Ncube.

He said children should be taught the traditional dances from a young age so that by the time they are mature they are perfect.

“Teach them as young as when in Early Childhood Education. We have one pupil who was in grade three last year and he has been a revelation, think of him when he gets to Grade Seven,” said Ncube.

He said his passion for art has pushed him to create a group called Matjinge Stars, which has entered the Chibuku Road to Fame finals in Gwanda next month.

“We want to win that prize money and we are going to Gwanda to win. I have passion for traditional dances to be revived so that we can teach them to our children,” said Ncube.