Behind every successful artist there’s a great manager, or so we believe.
That Tumediso Loeto aka Shanti Lo is one of the country’s successful and well known jazz artists cannot be disputed. And he has said it before that he owes most of his accomplishments to none other than his manager, Soares Katumbela who has been with him through thick and thin. But who is Soares, how did he meet Shanti Lo and what are his frustrations and aspirations? The Voice sat down with the soft spoken artist manager at his home this past Sunday to get these answers and more.
MANAGING SHANTI LO
So, tell us how did you meet Shanti Lo and why did you decide to be his manager?
I met him in 2008 when he was performing at Satchmos club. After his performance I had a chat with a friend of mine, Lekofi Sejeso who was in the band who suggested that Shanti Lo needs a good manager, thereafter Shanti Lo approached me and the rest as they say is history.
And are you happy that you accepted his request?
Of course I am, Shanti Lo is a committed artist who takes himself seriously. Besides that I am happy that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. It has not been easy for us but we hung in there, slowly but surely we seem to be getting there.
Who would you say has benefited more from the other, you or Shanti Lo?
We have both benefited from the relationship. We have made contacts around the world and that has given us both opportunities to travel, meet more people and widen our network.
So where Shanti Lo goes you also go?
Not really, but there is someone who is always with him.
As his manager what exactly is your role and is he the only artist that you are managing?
I am responsible for managing his performing schedules and scouting for gigs where he can perform. The idea is to make sure that he remains as focused and professional as he can be.
How do you keep him grounded?
He grounds himself. He always has a schedule because we plan well in advance. Like I have said Shanti Lo is quite disciplined and focused so managing him is not giving me headaches at all.
You are a jazz promoter, what would you say about this genre of music in Botswana, is it growing?
The genre could be better but the problem is that artists don’t seem to take themselves seriously. They don’t understand that being an artist is a career and that like any career it needs to be given the respect it deserves. Most of the artists don’t have managers, they just do things haphazardly and unfortunately that is hindering their growth.
Are you marketing yourself here as a manager for artists?
No, not at all, my hands are full with Shanti Lo, what I am saying is maybe other artists can learn one or two things from my relationship with him. I am not trying to get all the credit for Shanti Lo’s success but I can tell you that being his manager has contributed positively to his growth as an artist.
What about support from the public, do you think Batswana appreciate jazz?
To a certain extent they do. Let me hasten to mention that I am happy that for the first time in Botswana, this year we had a jazz festival which was fully sponsored by the private sector, the First National Bank. The festival was a huge success and if we can get more of those then we indeed we will be heading for glory.
And how are the financial gains of being an artist manager, are you happy?
I can’t complain really, it’s not much but the good thing is that things are improving for the better.
You are also on radio, are you a jazz presenter on Duma FM out of love for the music or as another source of income?
It’s the love for jazz and to take the genre to the people.
You seem to be so smitten with jazz, where did the love come from?
I was introduced to jazz by my friend, the late Matsi Matenge way back in 1977 when we were at school and it was love at first listening. Before then I was a rock and reggae person and didn’t know what I was missing from jazz. When Matsi passed on I performed at his funeral in honour of his role in introducing me to the music.
So, you are also an artist, didn’t know that?
No, I am not but I just had to perform at my friend’s funeral.
You mentioned earlier that you started managing Shanti Lo in 2008, what were you doing before then?
I was promoting artists which I still do even now, I used to bring jazz artists from Zimbabwe and South Africa to come and perform in Botswana, way back in the 80s we didn’t have our own jazz artists so I closed that gap by bringing in artists from outside.
Now tell me about your company Street Horn, who are your partners and what exactly does the company do?
It’s a music and entertainment promotions company, we also coordinate events. The company is wholly owned by me and my wife.
You seem to have hectic life which is always taking you away from your family, how do you strike the balance?
My wife used to complain when we first got married 25 years ago because I was hardly home but with time she got used to it because she had realised its my passion and my vision. She has been such a supportive wife and I couldn’t ask for more. You know in the entertainment industry sometime one has to dig deep into his or her own pockets and when that happened, my wife did not judge or get angry with me, she gave me all the support that I needed and so did my children.
Any regrets in your life?
(Pauses) Hmm, regrets no, I don’t have any but there is something which I wish I had and have not given up on it. I wish to have an entertainment centre or venue if I may call it. A place where artists can rehearse and perform, a place where people can be entertained. Anyway it’s not too late to have it, it’s only a matter of time.
If you were not in the entertainment industry, what would you be doing and by the way, what are you by profession?
I did auto machining but I quit the trade long back. I can’t imagine myself doing something different. Jazz promotion and entertainment are what I do best.
When you are long gone, what do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as the man who loved and promoted jazz. In fact I am grooming my daughter Napusu who is currently the marketing person for Street Horn to continue where I would have left. She is doing business administration at the UB so I have no doubt that she will continue with my legacy. I want the Katumbelas to be known for their love for jazz.
Ok, thank you for your time, we really appreciate the fact that you sacrificed family time for this interview.
You are welcome.
Full names: Soares Katumbela
Date of birth: 12/10/1961
Place of birth: Francistown
Marital status: Married
Pastime: Gardening, doing landscaping and spending quality time with family
Mentor(s): Dave Bestman, Rashid Lombard and Peter Tladi (SA promoters)
Favourite food: Pap, serobe, pork trotters and fish
Favourite drink: Red wine and Hunters Extreme