FOR many years his voice has dominated the airwaves and it looks like there is no stopping this man with a gong in his voice.
He came into prominence in 1997 as a captivating voice on Mokorwana Cultural Group and later had beautiful duets with Shirley before cofounding Dikakapa in 2002.
Ketshabile “Gongmaster” Mponang is a man of many talents whose solo career as an artist has not gone unnoticed.
The baritone has now exploited his famous voice further and is now on radio where he has been receiving raving reviews from listeners.
In this interview he lets Voice reporter KABELO DIPHOLO into his personal and professional life.
Q. Finally I manage to get you; and thank you very much for granting us this interview.
You are welcome.
Q. I know you are a popular figure, but please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m a musician who hails from a small village of Ranaka in the Ngwaketse District.
Q. Is this the same village that Franco sang about?
(Laughs) Yes it is, and Franco needs to be reprimanded.
Q. When did you develop interest in music?
My love for music started at a very young age at my home village Ranaka. I used to sing at traditional choir competitions and I was actually very good.
By the time I left the village to join the army everybody knew who Mponang was.
Q. Talking about the army, when did you become a soldier?
I joined the force on 15th April 1993 and I’m proud to tell you that I was the first soldier to introduce traditional choir (dikhwaere) music in the army.
At first people were reluctant, they thought very little of dikhwaere and wanted to dismiss the idea without even giving it a chance.
Luckily enough, it was during President Khama’s reign as the Commander and he managed to see something that many could not see.
He saw talent and very soon there were many choirs in the army, and I have a couple of trophies to prove how good I was.
Q. Now that you have mentioned the president I really have to ask you this.
The President introduced arts competitions which have become so popular and receive coverage from the public media.
Some people view this as a political stunt rather than an effort to grow the arts. Having worked with him before, how genuine do you think he is?
(Clears throat) The president loves entertainment. In fact he loves all forms of entertainment for as long as there is discipline. He is also very supportive, but the atmosphere has to be right; discipline is at the centre of it all.
Q. How long did you stay in the army and what were you doing there?
I served in the army for 14 years and six months. When I quit I was an instructor and my job was to train recruits.
Q. You are now into radio and have Batswana talking. How did that happen?
It is perhaps unbelievable right now, but I have always wanted to be on radio.
It has always been my vision and I kept the discipline and focus to wait for an opening and once it came I seized the opportunity with both hands.
Q. How has been the response and what is your show called?
My show is called “Sesigo sa setso sa Setswana” which airs on Thursday at 10pm-12 midnight and Friday at 6pm on Duma FM.
The Friday show has a segment called ‘gadima’ where I play oldies. The show focuses on our way of life as Batswana.
Be it food, dress code, language or the environment; all these say a lot about who we are. Listeners love this show so much that that at times I give them an extra hour.
Q. You are also a family man, tell us more about that.
I have been married to Lebogang Rachel Ketshabile for five years now and we have two sons together aged 11 and 18. My wife hails from Molepolole –Gontlo e-dibe.
Q. What do you think attracted her to you?
I really don’t know. I have asked her before and she just laughed. I guess in a way when we met we were both ready to settle down and decided to raise a family together.
Q. What do you think is the value of marriage?
If you are single you run the risk of suffering misfortunes that were not meant for you. You do whatever you want and you arrive home at anytime you choose; this is dangerous. Marriage helps to mould a man, his outlook on life changes, that is why I would like to encourage young people to
Q. I know this could bring sad memories, but Gongmaster what do you have to say about Ditiro Leero’s imprisonment?
Eish, this issue has stayed with me from the day this case was mentioned. My cousin is a talented artist and I still cannot believe he is in jail.
It would be unfair to single him out, there are many talented people in prisons and I wish there was a way that their talents could be accessed from behind bars.
That boy has got so much talent.
Q. What inspires you to write a song?
I never write a song. I just get into my zone and the words just come, it is a God given talent.
Q. Well I guess now that you are on radio, it’s going to be a while before you have a new album out?
The one reason I managed to be doing what I’m doing today at Duma FM was due to my music. Being a musician has given me a platform where I was able to interact with relevant people and share my ideas.
I think today my proposal to Duma Fm was the first of its kind. I worked on it with Kaone Ramontshonyana (of the big brother fame) and it was entirely written in Setswana.
When I handed it to Editor Kealeboga Di-hutso, he could not believe it. A few weeks later I got a positive response from the station.
FULL NAMES: Mponang John Ketshabile
DATE OF BIRTH: 20 October 1973
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ranaka
MARITUL STATUS: Married with two kids
PASSTIME: I’m an indoor person. I stay in and just meditate.
FAVOURITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION: Cattlepost. It fulfills me to have my family there where we would be branding calves and drinking fresh cow milk.
FAVOURITE FOOD: I love local traditional food. The thing with me is that I want food that I know how they were made. I have soft porridge for breakfast everyday; it is standard and will never change.