Every year, enthusiastic and zealous lovers of Traditional Song and dance in the annual President’s Day Celebrations dedicate a whole day to witness their favourite groups performing live on stage. Out of all the categories in the competition, this is the one category that commands a strong following. You need to have been one of the hundreds of the enthusiastic fans to truly understand what the fuss is all about.
Forty-four groups were participating in eleven categories that included Tsutsube, Diware, Seperu (chobe), and Seperu (North West), Hosana, Sebirwa, Polka, Namastap, Setapa, Phathisi, as well as Dikhwaere. Over the past years, the SSKB Auditorium has been the preferred venue for this category. For good reason of course, looking back at some of the categories such as Phathisi, Setapa, and Tsutsube, they would easily dismantle a weak stage. When a dancer from one of these categories takes to the stage, one almost feels sorry for the poor stage as it endures the constant banging from the dancers. As is customary in the competition, each year, groups bring their all to the stage.
Under the Tsutsube category, two arch rivals were facing each other. The two are Nxanxase who were the defending champions, and the Kareng based Tshetlha ya Dikgwa, formerly led by Segametsi Moxoo and previously won the competition three times, and went as far as London to showcase their craft. Nxanxase from New Xanagas led by Rebecca Hendricks were confident minutes before they took to the stage. During a chat with Hendricks prior to their performance, she was cool and collected, and told this reporter that the return of one of the groups that previously defeated them meant nothing.
“We are ready. We are just here to polish off our performance,” she said as she took a painkiller for a troubling headache. In fact, two or three of her female dancers, were also taking painkillers. Opening up the stage in the Tsutsube category was Mogoditshane based group, Sesigo, followed by Matsubatsube from Letlhakane. Rebecca’s group were third to take to the stage, and the last one was Tshetlha ya dikgwa.
What makes Tsutsube magical is that everything is precise and coordinated. Something worth noting is that everything in Tsutsube has to be done choreographically from the clapping of hands to how the men move their feet as they dance. Everything has its purpose in Tsutsube and the least that any group can do is insult the originators of this dance by adding their own modern versions. This is something that some groups have a habit of doing, and have previously been cautioned by the judges. The clapping has to produce a sound similar to a plank. The feet of the male dancers, has to stay glued to the floor, and the only sound that should be heard is their rattles while their female counterparts can raise their feet. As for the song, one needs to distinctively hear that this is a Tsutsube song without any unnecessary modification.
Taking to the stage, Nxanxase were in their element. The crown belonged to them from the onset. With lead dancers such as Tebogo Botlhole nicknamed V8, and Hendricks, the crowd was granted of a spectacular performance. And they delivered all the way. Each time that Botlhole took to the stage for a few minutes, the crowd went wild. The same effect was experienced when the group leader, Hendricks made a few appearances towards the end of the magical performance. It was just fascinating to watch her transform and bring a new kind of vibe to the stage. Last year, Hendricks had left the stage transfixed and in a different type of world. Trying to talk to her immediately after the performance, it took her a few minutes to gather herself and return to planet earth. It is this passion and dedication that saw them retaining their number one spot. Tshetlha ya dikgwa, Matsubatsube and Sesigo came second, third and fourth respectively.
Returning to the stage this year after an absence last year was none other than Dipela tsa ga kobokwe in the Phathisi category. Other groups that were participating in the category included Kala tsa kgale, Bajakhudu and Meribo Creations. This is one group that gave many groups sleepless nights over the years. And those who were missing them at the competition last year were enthusiastic and hopeful that the group would fight tooth and nail, and reclaim their top spot. Mind you this is a group that previously hugged the top spot for six long years. But their great return was not great after all.
From the minute that they took to the stage, it was evident to those who have followed the performance of the group for years that there was something amiss. The energy, coordinated formation were missing. In the previous years, when Dipela took to the stage, you could feel the energy in the room changing, and one would sit rooted to their spot. But this was a far-fetched dream from all of those years. Even with the fans screaming, and celebrating at the end of their performance, it was evident to the naked eye that the group has lost its magic.
The Phikwe based Kala tsa kgale retained the top spot, winning this category for the second time in a row. The Molepolole former national champions came second, followed by Meribo Creations and Bajakhudu.
Other reigning champions include Mwathiyacthicho (Diware), and Chankonchanko (Seperu-Chobe). Other winners for the night included Tiwazani (Seperu- North West), Tjelenge Tjengwao (Hosana), Tsa mmala cultural group (Sebirwa), Remmogo (Polka), Isiqwaqwa (setapa) and Lesedi Choir (Dikhwaere).
The 2018 instalment of the Traditional Song and dance competition under the annual President’s Day Celebration took place this past Sunday. The event, one of the most popular categories in the annual extravaganza once again lived up to expectations and delivered a spectacular line-up of some of the most dazzling showstoppers. Groups from all corners of the country came prepared and ready for a battle.
For those who have been following the competition over the years, they would know that a win is not easily handed on a silver platter, and all groups that make it to the final lap are worthy of the title of the overall winner. Traditional song and dance consist of ten categories - Diware, Seperu (Chobe) and (North West), Hosana, Sebirwa, Tsutsube, Setapa, Phathisi, Dikhwaere, as well as Polka. Each category consists of four groups and in total there are 40 finalist groups. Ask returning groups such as Nxanxase, and they will relate a story about how they have fought tooth and nail to reclaim victory at the competition. The last time that the New Xanagas-based group showed their faces at the finals they were not so lucky.
But this Sunday, their gods were on their side and were indeed smiling. From the minute that the group took to the stage, the crowd stood up and blessed the group with a thunderous applause. It remains to be seen whether this was because they were seeing one of the favourite group leaders, Rebecca Hendricks.
Leading her troops, Hendricks wanted to reclaim the crown that is elusive in the Tsutsube category. She was facing groups that include the defending champions Kgabosereto from Thamaga, Diwetse and Ditsuatsue. Many thought that the defending champs had rightfully defended their title, but this was not the case. Ready for war and coming with everything that they had, Hendricks had done her homework very well and knew that they wanted to return home as champions. By the time that they left the stage, the SSKB stage was about to crack under the pressure.
Backstage, some of her dancers were panting for breath. Even Hendricks herself had to take several minutes to regain her breath. It was clear at that precise moment that this was no ordinary performance. Some of the female dancers appeared to be in a trance and were being ushered out by their male peers.
Gasping for breath, she told this publication that this was indeed a long and tough battle. She explained that they had to go back to the drawing board and see where they had been going wrong. For the finals, she explained that it took them three long and tiring weeks to prepare and polish this performance that secured them the much-deserved win.
“We listened to the judges and what they had previously raised, and we did exactly what they wanted,” she said. She said that the 25-member group had been working around the clock to regain the title. “It was not easy,” she said. Another highlight of the competition was in the Sebirwa category. Newcomers, Mafitlhakgosi under the leadership of Joseph Ikopeng made a grand entrance in the competition. They were facing groups that include Tsa Mmala Cultural Group, Ba Ga Mmanaana, and Mothoping Cultural group. The Old Naledi group clinched victory, setting the stage on fire with their outstanding dance moves.
And lastly, Shigyakao under the Seperu (North West region) from Gumare were once again a sight to behold. The group was facing strong competition from groups that include Tiwazani, Diyathoteng, and Mavuashire. And they came ready for war. The group defended their title and set a high pace for the judges in this category. Other reigning champions who successfully defended their titles include Mwathiyacthicho (Diware), Chankonchanko (Seperu-Chobe), and Kalahari Dancers (Polka). Other winners on the night included DikgositsaNgwao (Hosana), Morogowangwana (Setapa), Mahusane (Dikhwaere) and Kalatsakgale (Phatisi).