There are some personalities who just don’t need an introduction and Tumediso Loeto aka Shanti Lo is one such
He is a well known artiste locally and regionally but he is now making serious inroads into the international scene. While his music brought him to the limelight he is also known for his colorful, somewhat feminine outfits especially when on stage. Coupled with the make-up that he wears, Shanti Lo sends tongues wagging about his sexual orientation in the conservative Botswana society even though his sexuality is a subject that he does not want to talk about as he maintains that it is his private life.
As music is what he is well known for, that is what he is comfortable talking about. And while his star seems to be rising by the day he reveals that it has not been an easy road, but he has learnt that it is not for him to fight his battles but God.
THE RISE AND RISE OF SHANTI LO
2012 seems to be a good year for you, you have just returned from a tour in Europe and you will be appearing for the first time at the South Africa’s Joy of Jazz festival
It hasn’t been as good as you think. I spent most of the early months of the year jobless. No gigs were coming my way so it was really tough. We even came across bogus promoters who made me perform for nothing. The matter is now with the courts.
So the first part of the year was really tough but I must say something good came out of it because I experienced personal and spiritual growth. Instead of wanting to fight my own battles I realised that it was not for me to do that but to leave everything to God.
Does this mean you are now a born again Christian?
I have always been but what I mean is my relationship with God has been strengthened. I now pray more often and I know that whatever happens in my life,God has a reason for it.
Ok, back to your career, you will be appearing at the Joy of Jazz festival, how does that make you feel.
This is not only the first time for me to take part at the festival but the first time for a Motswana to do so. Obviously I am happy, I have always been a pioneer, I was the first Motswana to perform at the Swaziland Bush Fire festival and I am doing it again by being the first to participate at the Joy of Jazz.
But all this is because of my hard work and the grace of God, you will have to bear with me, God is going to feature so many times in this interview.
I also understand that you got a scholarship to study in Sweden, tell me about it.
It’s not a scholarship. During my tour last year I was offered a place at the Kulturama Music and Performing Arts College and was meant to pay for my tuition fees but couldn’t raise the money. When I went back there this year I gave them that feedback and that is when they offered me something to do at the college so I can be able to pay for my tuition and upkeep.
Congratulations, so when are you leaving and for how long are you going to be there?
What I have told you is as far as I can reveal, nothing more.
But are you coming back, what if you fall in love with the country and decide not to come back?
I don’t know, anything can happen. God has plans for me and I don’t know what His plans are in as far as my stay in Sweden is concerned.
Ok fine, now tell us about your wardrobe, who does your outfits?
I do them myself, remember I am also a designer by profession. I love designing wedding gowns and have married off so many brides in Botswana.
Now this explains your colourful and mostly silky outfits, and the make up?
Noleen Farr of Urban Space does my makeup when I am performing locally while the make up is supplied by Norah Mphoeng of Blacks Secret.
But do you really have to put it on the way you do?
It creates impressions about your sexual orientation
Are you asking me if I am gay, I have never responded to that question and never will cause it’s a private matter.
You are always carrying a handbag, what is normally inside it?
My wallet, make up and perfume, I am a die- hard fan of perfumes and love smelling good. Actually not only smelling good but looking good as well. What you also need to understand is that I am an entertainer, it’s my job and I take it seriously and the same goes with my image.
What type of a car do you drive?
(Silent then after a moment answers but visibly irritated) What does it matter what car I drive, I don’t own a car so what. I am sure you know I don’t have a car but you just have to ask so that other people can know that Shanti Lo doesn’t have a car or a house. Why do you people equate success to material things? Why do you always think being on stage means money? Do you people ever probe how much artists are paid for performing here in Botswana? I employ fathers and mothers to put up shows and I have to make sure that they are paid, doesn’t that count for something better than going after cars.
Hey, that was just a question?
Ya, but you have to know that I get upset by such questions. People should just change their mindset and stop expecting certain things from artists because it’s a struggle out there. We maybe artists but we are human like everyone else, we have challenges, we go through rough patches as well and all is just not rosy. And you must know that I have priorities and owning a car is not one of them at the moment. Are you aware that my trip to Sweden was self sponsored, these are the priorities that I am talking about.
Ok, I hear you, I can see you are upset but it wasn’t my intention to upset you. I know you have said you turn to God when times are hard but there must be someone who always gives you a shoulder to cry on
My mother, she has always been there for me same for my father who is quite a wise and insightful person and my sister as well. Actually I have a very supportive family and friends. And of course Mr Katumbela (Soares, his manager) is always there for me too.
What is your dream?
To see myself performing on very big stages and making that huge impact in the global entertainment scene on behalf of my country. I want the international audience to look at me and see Botswana.
Maybe you should approach Brand Botswana since you are saying you want people to look at you and see Botswana and also looking at the fact that music is a universal language.
It’s not for me to approach them but for them to approach me if they feel I can contribute to their cause. And besides maybe I don’t fall into their mandate or I am not the best person to push Botswana as a brand.
Do you have regrets?
Whatever happened in my life happened for a reason so I don’t have any regrets.
Parting message for your fans
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and please pray pray pray, all the time.