Gone are the days when opera was the only language spoken in the musical circles. Maitisong and No 1 Ladies Opera House had been the hosts to these world class shows and the BIFM festival was the ultimate show of the year where orchestra was king.
But all these fizzled out without any explanation. While at the time there was so much hype on the opera genre, there were still very few platforms to showcase it but with the birth of No. 1 Ladies Opera House, there had been so much hope that there would be that rich culture of opera but that never lasted. The likes of Angela Kerrison, The Three Tswana Tenors, Gape Motswaledi, Tshenolo Segokgo, Boitumelo Pilane to mention a few had become household names of this genre. When you ask one of the pioneers of this genre who put together titillating shows with mouthwatering line-ups, he admits he just got tired. Not tired of organising shows of this calibre but tired of begging for sponsorship.
David Slater, who is best known to uphold the opera culture whilst a director at Maitisong, says putting together those shows did not come easy or cheap. “From my point of view the shows just died out because I lost the drive to raise funds. Every time we put together a show, I would need to run around to beg for sponsorship,” stated Slater. He is not lost though to the genre. He still runs a music school where he teaches music and also hosts opera evenings at his house two or three times a year, which is the best he could do for now under the prevailing environment. The current Maitisong Director, the youthful Gaokgakala Lemmenyane, also admits that not much had been done in that area during his time but he is hopeful with new partnerships such as the recent trip to Scotland by four local young singers through Scottish Opera they will certainly revive opera music in Botswana.
The quartet, selected from two local choirs, comprised Lesedi Selepeng, Lameck Kangunde, Christopher Chipo (Gaborone Philharmonic Voices) and Gaone Garogwe (Maikano Serenadors) were accompanied by Tebogo Dire, a singer and conductor. According to Dire, they were invited alongside other singers from other countries by Scottish Opera to be part of the singers to put together anamchara songs of friendship, whose words were written by renowned author of the serialised the No. 1 Ladies Detective, Alexander McCall Smith. There were four categories where singers were to be categorised, the children’s section, connect group (comprising teenagers), community chorus and The Principals. The four young singers who were initially to be in the connect group were then moved to the community chorus because they had the disadvantage of not having been familiarised with the songs well in advance like other singers.
Dire said he had sent out a call to various choirs locally for singers but the response had become low with only two choirs coming forth. He adds that they cherish the experience because they discovered that the Scottish treasure opera to a point where everything is attended to, from the first to the last detail. In addition to that as Batswana, they were afforded an opportunity to showcase their culture through song and also collaborating with South African singers. In the process of networking, Dire says he suggested to Scottish Opera to maintain their relationship for future collaborations, where he says there were a few nods, noting that Africa has a lot to offer. He also cited that McCall Smith hinted a possibility of collaborations with local singers in the near future, perhaps a remake of Okavango McBeth, this time in South Africa but with the involvement of local singers. Local singers that had previously been featured in Okavango McBeth were, Dire, Motswaledi, Kago Regoeng, Segokgo and Lizibo Simon.