Behind every great album there’s Eric Ramco
In the early 2000s, Eric Ramco’s name was synonymous with every hit record in the country.
He proved his golden touch working with some of Botswana’s successful musicians such as Third Mind, Prez beats, Vee Mampeezy, Magosi, Matsieng, Dikakapa, Mosako just to mention but a few.
Having started his career in 1995 at just 25-years of age, the legendary Eric Ramco has continuously been involved in songs that have broken records and put artists on the musical map-making him one of the best producers of his generation.
He was to later go into self-imposed exile in the darker days of his career.
The Voice’s SHARON MATHALA finally caught up with the media-shy record producer at his studio after several failed attempts.
Conveniently located at the crest of Phaphani Hills in Mochudi, Eric Ramco records are on a revival path and have partnered with Matsieng traditional group to once again take traditional music to the top of the charts.
Eric Ramco came back into the country last September after a decade long hiatus, with a firm belief that he is the answer to getting the traditional music genre he once so ever loved, back to popular status.
He is sceptical about answering some questions posed to him saying he will reveal all in the tell-all memoir he is currently working on.
His studio is decorated with awards and recognitions he has received over the years and most recently the Iconic Yarona FM Music Awards (YAMAs).
The studio is nothing short of fancy and this is where the magic happens, he says.
Q. Why did you finally decide to speak to us after years of chasing?
A. Because the album is done now.
If I had agreed to talk to you in January I would not have had anything to update you on.
I don’t like talking about things I will do.
I prefer talking about things I have done.
Q. You have a memoir that you are working on, what can we expect from the book?
A. Oh Yes!
Problem is I keep delaying completing it, but it will come eventually.
It will be basically about where I started, where I am now, where I am heading and the hardships I have been through.
Q. Why did you leave?
I needed to find my way-out before I went crazy.
Back then the record label had gone belly up and it was my fault as well as many other external factors.
It is one of those things and places of my past I avoid visiting.
Q. But your record label was doing wonders. You were working with some of the hottest artists in Botswana who has now turned legends in the industry.
A. The record label was not anywhere except on its knees.
I had done all that but it was not appreciated by anybody.
Even when I left I said let me just go and leave people with their songs and ‘le tla nkgopola’ (you will remember me).
People thought they could do better than I could.
Artists came and left after I had worked so hard on their brands you know all that B! And I felt it was enough, I left.
Q. Why did you come back?
A. My mother is not well.
You know I had stayed for four years without even setting foot here and the remainder of the years I would come maybe once in a year.
So essentially that is why I had to come back.
Q. How come you never worked on any music whilst in self-exile?
A. The whole time I was in South Africa I never went to the studio.
I always felt if I had to do work it would be with a group from Botswana.
Traditional music for me is a Botswana thing I wasn’t going to work with anyone else who is not from Botswana.
It was God’s will really. And so that it was why I am here in Phaphani Hills.
Q. What is the significance Phaphani Hills to the rebirth of Ramco records?
A. There is nothing untoward about it really.
Our office is just next to the hills. There is no snake visitation or anything.
Q.What do you think it would take for a local artist to win, say a Grammy award?
A. The world we live in now is like a global village it is not like back in the day.
You see as long as you have a product that is of quality with the right marketing a Grammy award is nothing.
Q. Do you think there is the growth of Botswana music from the time you left as compared to now?
A. There is none. I don’t see it. Do you see it?
Q. What do you think the local industry lacks that we could learn from other industries like West Africa, who have grown tremendously over the years?
A. Lack of management maybe.
Lack of Governance that encourages the growth of this multi-million pula industry.
We should also develop a culture of supporting our own.
Q. But what would it take for our own to compete internationally? We have had groups and artists who are of international status but they have not been able to penetrate the market. We preach support local but we don’t get the desired quality.
A. People don’t work hard enough to push their talent.
They come into the studio, put together what they can and put it out into the market.
They borrow lyrics from past songs and most products are just a repetition of what the consumers have heard before.
People should invest in their craft, and I mean invest in many ways.
There is very little writing, thinking and composing and this seems to be the trend.
Q. The way people consume music has changed over the years, how do you intend on monetizing your coming work especially in the era of COVID-19 protocols?
A. A lot of people still do buy Cds, as long as what you sell people for carries value.
My major challenge is COVID-19 protocols because the group now cannot perform as much as I would have wanted them to.
Events and borders have been shut down but if it wasn’t for that we would shut everything down.
But we need to keep moving. Life doesn’t stop and it has not stopped.
Q. There is the hot potato of artists not owning masters and record labels basically cheating artists out of their work and leaving them poor. What is your take?
A. That is the model of this business. We own the masters.
We invest in the business and not the artist
Q. But it is frustrating that the artists are known out there, they are brands but they have nothing at home to show for it.
A. It is a difficult one.
It is not cheating the artist.
They would then have to finance the projects.
They only come here to sing the songs that we write for them.
Do you know who else is poor? Producers.
It is a ground we have to tread very carefully on.
Q. When you came back you had a demonstration that sent social media in frenzy. What was that all about?
A. That was one of the biggest scams I ever had.
A lot of people did not understand what I was trying to do.
And because they didn’t get it they blew it out of proportion.
I just wanted to show people that Eric Ramco is back.
People thought I was begging on the street, but No that was guerrilla marketing from my part.
Q. When did you decide to make a comeback with Matsieng?
A. We had been talking about it since 2018.
Initially, it was supposed to be done in South Africa but that could have been a bad idea because I needed to be close.
Q. What can we expect from the album?
A. We touch on different issues really, I mean this is Matsieng, unpredictable.
I wrote most of the songs but they (Matsieng) added a bit of their flair in the songs.
The songs vary.
There are about 15 of them in the album.
Q. There is a certain original member who is not part of Matsieng 2020. Why is he not there?
A. Why don’t you mention his name? Is it a problem?
He is Ditiro Leero.
Well, he resigned from the group back in 2007.
He wrote me a letter to resign.
He hasn’t come back to say he wants to part of the group again and I am not saying if he comes back we will allow him back.
Why is that when I come back he is supposed to now be a member?
Q. Why did he resign then from the group?
A. I don’t know.
He quit the group at the height of its success.
He went on to start his own solo career and I am not going to take someone back like that.
They say songs about me using the language you know “bo Kgosi leponyola”.
I don’t have anything against Ditiro Leero but I won’t work with him with Matsieng.
Tinto was one of the best projects for Matsieng and he was not part of that, I don’t understand the hullaballoo about him not being part of Matsieng now.
Q. What is the end game for Eric Ramco?
A. What is important for me is to see Traditional music grow.
I want them to stand tall beside the so-called big acts in the world and compete.
I want a Grammy as you asked earlier.
Q. Do you consider yourself a difficult person to work with?
A. I am the easiest person to work with but people have to work, it’s all I ask.
Your way needs to be the right way if not then it is my way.
It is not the high way it is the right way.
Q. So besides spending time in the studio what else do you get up to?
A. I go out.
But I don’t do that much anymore.
We have the most fun here in the studio.
Q. Who do you think is the biggest artist in Botswana right now?
A. I would be lying.
Every so often I hear a new name.
Q. TGIF, where will you be this Friday?
A. I will be here in the studio.
Fine-tuning the album.