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Festival of Kerala – an explosion of Indian folk expression

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Hundreds of Malayalees – the Kerala Indian commuity living in Botswana –celebrated their Keralaotsavam or Festival of Kerala this past Saturday at Maitisong hall, Maru-a-Pula secondary school.

Held under the auspices of Kerala Samajam Botswana, the festival brought together the over 600-strong Kerala Community that resides and works in different parts of Botswana under one roof to share, reminisce and celebrate their culture in song, dance and to showcase their traditional attire. Dignitaries, among them former President Festus Mogae, India’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Dr Rajesh Ranjan and his wife, Dr. Upma Ranjan as well as Russian and Japanese envoys and the president of Kerala Samajan Botswana Sreejith Alakkat – graced the event.

Making a keynote address, former president Mogae extolled the importance of the festival as an ocassion to people-to-people diplomacy. Having visited the State of Kerala in southern India on three ocassions, Mogae, eho turns 80 this year, said the festival helps to cement the bonds and ties that exist betweenthe peoples of Botswana and India. It was however, not so much the speeches that the excited crowds yearned to hear instead they wanted to be immersed in the line-up of cultural events displayed in folk and contemporary song and dance.

The items on display in the various colourful array of presentation were performed by 130 participants under the able guidance of 12 dhoreographers, all of whom were given mementos at the end of every musical or dramatic show. Among the repertoire on show were Mohiniyatam – one of eght classical dances of India that was developed and remains popular in Kerala; Thiiruvathira – a Hindu festival celebrated in Kerala ss the birthday of Lord Shiva; there was also the Oppana- a popular form of social entertainment among the Mappila – these are the Kerala Muslims as well as Kerala nadanam – a relatively new style of dance curreently recognised as a distinct art form mevolved from Kathakali, which is a form of Indian dance-drana.

The performances continued until midnight and were punctuated by dinner; cinematic shows and prize giving breaks during which guests and patrons enjoyed sumptuous Indian meals. According to one of the Kerala Salamajan Botswana committee member, members of the Kerala Community comprise largely of professional Accontants and Teachers and have only recently ventured into the business side.

The patron of the association is Ramgoolam (Ram) of the Choppies brand; while some of the business-minded Kerala community membersare found in the gas and oil industry; Botho University; and accounting firms.This community is revered for having bequeathed Botswana with the first Indian doctor, Dr. Nair, who worked at Princess Marina Hosiptal and is renowned for having attended to the health of former presidents – the late Sir Ketumile Masire and former president Festus Mogae. She and her husband, one of the pioneering engineers at RoadsTransport and Safety will be retiring to India very soon.

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BOSJE elevates jazz education in Botswana

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CHANGING LIVES: Music has the power to empower youth.

The Botswana Society of Jazz Education (BOSJE) will host the 9th annual International Jazz Day for the 3rd time this year at the Maitisong theatre. According to the founding chairperson Akhutlheng Mogami, the society was formed to create a platform for jazz musicians and aspiring jazz musicians to grow and share ideas and even have their work documented.

“As a society, we have realized a need for jazz education. There is also no documentation about jazz in Botswana, which makes it difficult for both the teachers and students when it comes to teaching and learning about jazz as there is no local content to refer to. It is also for purposes of funding applications to run workshops and host festivals and exchange programs that we needed to have a legally registered nonprofit making entity as this one,” she said.

BOSJE was officially registered on the 31st of August 2015 with the registrar of societies and some its objectives include to ensure the growth of Jazz in Botswana and development of jazz education; to build jazz community by advancing education and research; to document, preserve and archive our Botswana jazz heritage; to promote skills development and performance through jazz camps, exchange programs and jazz shows and festivals, and to also develop new audiences.

In January 2017 the society formed a youth jazz big band (Big Bands). Mogami noted that they managed to bring together young people from all walks of life to teach them about jazz and how to play jazz. Since then, the band has been growing substantially both musically and professionally. She noted that The Big Bands in Botswana project which aims to put together jazz bands in schools and communities all over the country. “The project brings together young people and teaches them to play music in an ensemble set up.

The project commenced on the 15th of February 2019 with the primary objective of this project is to bring positive social change through music. Children who are involved in this music program receive a music education, which we believe will lead them to improved overall academic success. The children will also learn the essential skills needed for the 21st century workforce.

In addition to that, these children will also have a platform to exercise their creativity, and all this will in turn grow their confidence.” The band has graced the Masire foundation annual gala dinner, International Jazz Day, Annual De Beers sight holders Dinner, and Gaborone toastmasters among others.

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Diva Vebrok and Benson Phutego drop love sin gle

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NEW OFFERING: Benson & Diva Vebrok’s listening session rocked

Diva Vebrok and Benson Phutego recently released their joint single titled Ha o ka leba. The two launched the song at a listening session at Greenberry Gardens. Music artists including Nono, Franco and promoters PP and Gloria Dzwikiti as well as other industry role players flocked the venue to listen to what the two have to offer and they were not disappointed.

The single is good quality – from the melody, lyrics, rthyme and production. The divine diva Diva Vebrok adds a golden touch with her smooth voice while the bold and eloquent Phutego’s voice complements hers as he breaks out into poetry.

Director of ceremony at the listening session Berry Heart also kept the crowd galvanised throughout the night with her energetic spirit. President of Music Promotions Zenzele Hirschfield expressed appreciation for the support rendered to the two and highlighted that it is important for artists to support one another. “I am honoured to see that that many people in the local music industry have come out to support their fellow artists.

This means a lot and we really need to unite as artists all the time,” she said. She sang praises for Diva Vebrok who she said was passionate and hard working. “She is more than just an artist but also an influencer and entrepreneur. She is one of the women in the music industry who work hard and never give up on their craft,” she said.

Phutego impressed the crowd with his words of wisdom as he appreciated being featured by Ve brok on the single. “It was great working with her as she is passionate and hard working. Women are the pillars of society and as such they should be respected. I have no regrets about this project because I am confident that we produced a great love song.”

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