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The King of Kwasa

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The King of Kwasa

Fantastic Franco and his magic music

Although there are many pretenders to the throne, Frank Lesokwane – aka Franco – is the undoubted King of Kwasa Kwasa.

Combining his God-given talent with an impressive work ethic, the popular 47-year-old Gabane-born musician is one of the country’s best-loved musicians and has been for almost two decades.

A former soldier, Franco’s rise to the top began in the late 90s, establishing himself as an integral part of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Band.

During that time, he worked with legendary groups such as Taolo Moshaga and Lonaka Band, Nata Capricorn, Delta Sounds, Alfredo and Les Africa Sound as a backup singer, guitarist, drummer and saxophonist.

At the turn of the new millennium, Franco brought an end to his military career, trading in his gun for the microphone.

It proved to be an inspired decision.

In 2001, he launched his debut album, ‘Ke Lela Le Lona’ which took the country by storm.

16 albums later and Franco’s star burn brighter than ever. With an 18th album set for release, he remains the darling of the masses.

Away from music, Franco has proved an astute businessman and owns a Guest House and farm in Kumakwane, where he rears livestock and has also set-up a Recreation Park.

Following a busy festive season, the Kwasa King sat down with The Voice’s Portia Mlilo for a quick chat.

Q. What made you quit the force and join the music industry all those years ago?

A. Growing up I loved music so I felt I needed more time to focus on it because it was difficult to balance work and my talent.

I was in the band but sometimes I had to do other force duties and I was not much into the army.

I also wanted to grow as a musician and that cannot happen if you are under another organisation.

So I decided to start my own music business.

I did not have passion for the force but I joined because I was unemployed.

I also did it for bragging rights (laughing).

Q. Take us through your journey in music, how did it all begin?

A. When I was at school, I used to be a DJ when there were activities.

One of my teachers had a radiogram and I would play cassettes on it.

I loved DJ Easy B, he used to have a disco machine and I would carry it for him when he had gigs at Old Naledi.

I would be by his side forwarding and rewinding cassettes with a pen.

He was known as Bannye’s Crazy Disco!

I often attended festivals organised by Fairwell supermarket at the stadium featuring artists from South Africa.

I loved Brenda Fassie and Kofi Olomide, Pepe Kalle, Kanda Bongo Man – when their songs were play I would sing along.

When I joined BDF our trainers recognised my talent at Panda and I was recruited to join the band.

Other groups saw me during the Band Charity Concerts and during the consumer fair and they were interested in my service.

Q. And how did you harness your talent?

A. I was playing euphonium at the band.

I learnt to write songs, play piano, guitar and play drums.

There was a man from Sri Lanka who was a Band Master who said I should be in the dance band.

I started singing Kwasa Kwasa songs and playing keyboard.

I also started playing with other groups in Gaborone to gain more experience.

Trekkers Club, which back then was called Bodiba, hosted a group called Lubumbashi Stars from DRC and I was playing music with them.

In 1996 I joined Nata Capricorn and recorded two albums, ‘Dumelang’ and ‘Bula Matlho’.

I then joined Les Africa Sound led by Lawi Somana and in 2000 I formed my own band, Franco and Afro Musica.

Q. How important was the BDF Band’s contribution to your musical development?

A. Very. I do not know how I can thank the organisation for their immense contribution in nurturing my talent and moulding me to be a disciplined person.

I am the musician I am today because of them.

I learnt how to write songs at BDF we had the best music teachers from other countries.

Q. What do you focus on when you compose a song?

A. When I compose a song, I mostly look at things that are happening in our society and my experiences.

I also consider if it will appeal to the listeners.

It is like when you are preparing a meal and the ingredients you add to make it tasty.

For example, the song ‘Noka ya Metsimotlhabe’, is about my friends who are living with disability but I talked about a scenario where the river is flowing and I can’t cross it to go visit them.

The song has to inform, educate and entertain.

Q. Your time at the top stretches back almost two decades now – how have you managed to stay relevant for so long?

A. I think BDF has taught me a lot of things, one of them being discipline.

You also have to be a hard worker, patient, determined and stay focused.

I have a manager but I am always hands on and make sure I am part of most of our business meetings.

Most of the time, when they host successful shows, artists misuse funds and during dry times they suffer.

You should be disciplined and run music as business – save for the future!

Q. What are some of the challenges local artists face?

A. It is very difficult to find gigs.

I survive by hosting my own shows because I do live performances and it is appealing to people.

Most of our local promoters like international acts and they are paid a lot of money while local artists are paid peanuts.

We should also take out job seriously and honour shows on time.

We survive by shows because people are no longer buying our music – they download it from the Internet for free.

Q. What are you currently working on and when can we expect the 18th album?

A. ‘Mene Mene Tekele’ is still doing well in the industry but yes I am working on my 18th album.

I couldn’t launch it at the end of last year because companies had engaged me in their promotions and we were touring the country with them as they were taking their services to people.

I have recorded the songs and I have sampled a few during festive shows.

There is a hit of Ronnie [Franco’s MC] fighting with a Zambian and our fans have loved it.

Q. You were recently quoted as saying you do not need an international act to fill up the National Stadium. Do you believe our industry has grown to a level where organisers can sell-out venues using local acts only?

A. I challenge the owners of the facilities to give me the National Stadium and I host a show with local artists only.

We can do it on our own! Our music industry has grown and we are capable of filling the stadium.

If things go according to my plan, the show will be at the end of March.

Q. You were billed to perform at the Monate Wa Tswapong Music Festival over the holidays but did not take to the stage, what happened?

A. We had agreed with the organisers that they would provide live sound equipment.

Unfortunately on the day of the show, they did not have combos used by our guitarists.

There was nothing we could do and it was not fair to our fans, which is why we made an official statement apologising for the inconvenience.

Q. Moving on, who is your inspiration?

A. My mother, Gaongalelwe. She is my pillar of strength.

We are a family of 12 and after the passing of my father she continued being a provider.

She currently stays at Diphiring lands taking care of livestock and I am very grateful for that.

She raised us and now she is raising my siblings’ kids.

I wish I could find a woman like her and get married!

Q. I’m sure there are plenty of willing volunteers! So, what’s next for Franco after music?

A. Music is my life. I will be a musician until I die!

I will continue doing it with other businesses.

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. We are on a break.

My dancers have gone on leave to visit their families since we were working during festive.

I will just be at the farm and on Sunday I am going to church.

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Renewed hope for the youth

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Renewed hope for the youth

He is one of the youngest Ministers in the country’s history.

However, at the age of 36, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, McDonald Chilliboy Rakgare already boasts a rich political background.

From his days as the University of Botswana (UB) School Representative Council (SRC) President, to his vocal time as the Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) President before joining the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Rakgare is well travelled in the world of politics.

The charismatic politician also has an insider’s understanding of the media, having worked for Yarona FM and Duma FM.

Ten years after it started, Rakgare’s political career reached new heights at last year’s general election, where he received 6, 350 of the 11, 116 votes casts to claim Mogoditshane constituency from the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

This week, Rakgare, in his capacity as a Minister, visited The Voice newsroom for a tete a tete with reporter SHARON MATHALA about the vision he has for the youth.

Mindful that some responsibilities will be lifted off his large Ministry with the introduction of two new Ministries, after exchanging pleasantries he shares…

Q. How would you summarise your political journey?

A. My political career kicked off when I was still a UB student back in 2009 and I subsequently joined the BNF.

I later resigned from BNF to BDP after a few differences.

With the BDP I believed in the leadership then of Rre Motswaledi, Ntuane and others.

I was with the youth committee and I differed on many occasions with the then President Ian Khama so I left.

Khama wanted to destroy our country and we now have our country back with President Mokgweetsi Masisi!

I then joined BCP, which was well organised.

I was with the BCP for six years and it really shaped me into the politician I am today.

Q. But why then leave the BCP? Did the party’s decision to join forces with the umbrella have anything to do with it?

A. In 2014 we differed with the UDC on principle as the BCP. Subsequent to that was the report of Rre Motswaledi and the UDC still failed.

Some things are internal but the UDC is not organised, its leader is not organised!

I had a serious problem because should Batswana vote for us we would have a problem of leadership.

Q. How would you describe the leadership skills of President Masisi?

A. Masisi has a love for the country. He is an intelligent man.

The BDP needed someone to appreciate the work of the elders and veterans.

The democrats are happy. They have renewed hope for the party. He runs the party with consultations and inclusion.

Q. Taking you back to when your win was announced for the parliamentary seat of Mogoditshane constituency. What was going through your mind?

A. Some said I did not show emotion. What was going through my mind was how I was going to take the constituency forward and the people who voted for me, how I will fulfill my promise and change their lives.

I knew I would win; the team had done its homework.

The people liked President Masisi, even from the Kgotla meetings one could see.

Q. But one can never be too sure in politics, what made you so confident of victory?

A. We went into the election with six incumbent councillors who had done pretty well.

But also our party manifesto spoke volumes towards the transformation Batswana and the people of Mogoditshane yearned for.

Q. Moving on, you were eventually appointed a Minister. Did you expect such an appointment?

A. I never expected it! It came as a surprise to me despite the background I have in sports and issues that affect the youth.

When I received the call and was summoned in to be told, the first thing I did was ask the President if I had heard him properly and he gave me a piece of paper to sign against my name.

I thought the President would go with someone more experienced but he knew what he wanted, and I guess that was me!

Q. You are taking over a position once held by heavyweights such as Tshekedi Khama and Thapelo Olopeng. Did that not shake you a bit?

A. Not at all, Rre Olopeng did his part but there are ways in which I look at things.

What we will do going forward is not about me.

I have an able team which I am confident will steer this ship forward.

Q. What is your vision for the Sports sector?

A. What we will do is give young people a platform.

Our youngsters are doing very well in different sporting codes.

The issue is to give them the right tools, the money.

We will resource our sporting codes; we will build the facilities and introduce sports and coaching at primary level.

If we want to compete with international stars we need to give our stars a fair chance.

Q. And as for the Arts?

A. We have young people who are creative and innovative.

We will support them fully.

We will capacitate them to create wealth and facilitate the process.

It is still a bit too early for me to go into detail but we do have a plan going forward – let’s have this conversation again in six months.

Q. Any international events planned for Botswana to host? I know the Forbes Under 30 Summit is coming to town in April, apart from that?

A. We have two in the pipeline.

I would not want to reveal which – we already have teams on the ground working around those.

I can assure you, they will be a first for Botswana!

Q. Sounds intriguing! How do you intend to address issues of alcohol and drug abuse amongst the youth?

A. About 60 percent of our population is made up of the youth and more than half of them are unemployed.

This you are likely to get as a government.

We as a government need to seriously introspect and come up with job opportunities for our youth but that is a long-term solution.

For now government will build a Rehabilitation Centre as well as be more visible in schools with campaigns and mentorship programmes.

Q. Is that not what the alcohol levy was for? Why is it taking such a long time to deal with this phenomenon?

A. That was the intention to have and build Rehab and Rehabilitation Centres with it, but that has not happened.

Q. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

A. I would tell him he can be anything he wants.

You can be anything you want in life. Just focus.

Take every day as it comes – look at me, I am a full Minister!

Q. What can you say to the youth who abuse social media and in turn bully others?

A. I stand here as a Minister and I really don’t know what can be done.

I log onto social media everyday and it’s disheartening what I see.

I think its starts really from home.

We should start having the conversation with our kids at home around the use of social media.

Q. Do you still play football?

A. Of course! Yes I do, very much so.

I am a really good midfielder, I might add.

These days, however, they play me up front.

You should come watch one of the games.

Q. Apart from ministerial duties and scoring goals, what else do you get up to?

A. I spend time with family because honestly I hardly have any spare time.

I leave early for work and come back really late.

Q. Thanks God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this coming Friday?

A. I will be addressing a Kgotla meeting in Mogoditshane.

Q. Any parting words?

A. Well I will just say corruption has no place in the current administration.

The rot in Government is huge, people went all out to destroy our country and steal from us.

We are going to have an investigation.

There is something in the works which will assist us with this.

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Celeb edition with Casper the Dj

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Celeb edition with Casper the DJ

Having enjoyed a stellar 2019, establishing himself as an ever-present on the entertainment scene, Casper the DJ has high hopes for the new year. The trendy 24-year-old music man joins an exclusive club by becoming the first CELEB EDITION of the year.

Briefly summarise your music career for us?

My birth name is KgosiTshiamoSabone.

I started Disc Jockeying in 2011 when I was doing Form 4.

It’s been a nine-year rollercoaster, having featured on a number of big musical festivals along the years.

I dropped a six-song project two years ago‘Strings Attached’ which is still available on all digital platforms.

What inspired you to venture into Deejaying?

Mostly my love for music.

It was amazing to know how many people I could make happy by pressing buttons and merging two songs into one!

If music didn’t work out, what career would you have gone for?

Accounting. Numbers are probably my next favourite thing after music.

Would you ever post a nude picture of yourself on social media to promote new music?

I’ve done a few controversial things but I’d never go that far!

What can fans look out for from you this year?

A lot! My team and I are working on my ‘One Man Show’ set for 28 Feb. We are trying to sell the best eight hours from a solo act you will see in a while! I’m working on new music as well, for now I can confirm at least one single for the year 2020.

You are known for your fashion sense. What is the most expensive item of clothing you own?

It’s definitely a pair of shoes.

If you could choose one superpower what would it be?

Reading minds. I’m a curious guy.

I’m always interested in knowing what other people are thinking.

What’s your favorite action movie?

I am really not a movie person.

Who is your local celebrity crush?

MsGeeKays.

Have you ever been arrested or had a run in with the law?

Does almost arrested count? Jokes!

I have had a run in with them though – it was for a car accident in 2018.

Five things people don’t know about you?

  1. I’m loud,I’m always talking
  2. I love my sleep
  3. I’m short so it amazes people that my shoe size is size seven
  4. I have this fantasy of being buff!
  5. I’m not too good at replying people over the phone – I’m a horrible texter

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Karim turns to Kwasa Kwasa

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Karim turns to Kwasa Kwasa

Having tried his luck as House Kwasa and Hip Hop, the multi-talented Onamile Ownah Wanga aka Karim has finally settled for Kwasa Kwasa.

The Beetsha native’s latest release is called ‘Mogata’.

The EP comprises of six tracks and incorporates a number of languages, including: Mbukushu, Seyei, Ikalanga, Sesubiya, Setswana and English.

The album opens up with ‘Sepoko’, then ‘Becha’ featuring Russ Décor and ‘Mogata’ featuring Malembe.

On track four is, ‘Motsene Mosimane’ which features the trio O-B, Quadra and Malembe, with ‘Appa’ and ‘Tlogela Bojalwa’ rounding up the album.

The title track is one of the songs to look out for.

If marketed well, it has the potential to transform Karim into a force to reckon with.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Carlos Ditsheko at CMD records in Maun, for Kwasa Kwasa lovers, this is a must have album!

RATINGS: 8/10

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