Motswako Music Pioneer

Motswako Music Pioneer


Many who have seen him performing before have confused him for one of the local artistes.

You can’t blame them. Hip Hop Pantsula AKA HHP also regards himself as a Motswana without an identity card. Voice reporter, Daniel Kenosi recently had a chat with the South African rapper when he was in Botswana to perform at a festival to understand what makes him tick.

“DJ Sly was the first radio presenter to play and popularise my music and ever since, I feel this is home.”

Q: Good day Double HP. what‘s your Government name?

My name is Jabulani Tsambo but like you said I am well known as HHP, a stage name I have had for many years and prefer it over my real name because it’s now a living brand.

Q: What does this HHP stand for?

It stands for Hip Hop Pantsula.

I got this name when growing up because I used to be and I still am a number one fan of hip hop music.

I used to hang around ‘pantsulas ‘so my friends decided to call me a hip hop fanatic who is aligned to pantsulas.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mafikeng which is my native home town. I have a Zulu name but I am a pure Motswana.

I grew up in Mafikeng but I understand we have family roots in Mozambique.

I have been told that my parents relocated to South Africa around 1987 and they settled there for good.

Q: How did you get the Zulu name?

The name Jabulani means ‘be happy’ in English and all my siblings have Zulu names.

I understand some of my relatives were from Kwazulu Natal hence our grandmother naming us in Zulu and my father spoke ‘Changaan’ language but was also fluent in Zulu.

Q: How was it growing up in Maf-town?

Mafikeng town was an extraordinary place. I grew up in the apartheid era but luckily for us who lived in Mafikeng, we enjoyed things that other citizens didn’t enjoy.

We had so much access to the media while those who lived in other parts of the country had no access to.

In short, I can say I had a great upbringing whilst most of my age mates had it rough on their side because of racism.

My first experience with a white man was when I first met a guy called Ben.

He spoke Setswana fluently and by then I got confused and thought English language was a dialect of Setswana which Ben spoke with an accent.

Q: How did you end up doing this Motswako genre?

Like I said, Mafikeng was a free town compared to other parts of South Africa.

We were not restricted to listening to a particular type of music or which language to speak, so I used to listen to all different kinds of music genres and developed so much interest in music in general.

To make it fair and maintain the love for music I decided to go for a genre that fuses all genres, which is Motswako.

With this genre I can take your gospel song and mix it with reggae and end up with something you would enjoy and with that I would have killed two birds with one stone and catering for different kinds of revellers in the process.

Q: Please take us back to your school days

I schooled in Mafikeng. By then the school stages were divided into three which was primary school, middle school and high school.

From Primary school I went to Redibone middle school and before proceeding to my high school there rumours became rife that the then government was to collapse so my mother decided to remove me from black dominated schools in Mafikeng into South Africa.

Q: I am confused. I thought Mafikeng is part of South Africa. Please explain further.

Yes, Its part of South Africa but back then it was a small settlement on its own and was called ‘Phutatswana.’

All the division was caused by apartheid and we were more like a small country within another country because we had our flag and leadership and we used to treat ourselves differently from other South Africans until the time we got independent as South Africa.

When the late Mandela came out of prison the whole self governing style of settlements came to an end and we became one big South Africa.

Q:  Please share your family set up with our readers

I am born from a humble Tswana family with a very loving mother.

She is a Setswana language lecturer and choral music composer as well.

I grew up learning a lot about music from her. If you listen to one of my songs, called ‘Futibolo’ you will notice that it’s a choral song which I have turned into a ‘motswako’ song.

I am currently working on another choral song which will come out soon still influenced by her.

My father was a corporate guy who liked grooving and I think I got much influence of grooving from him.

Q:  Have you ever gone back to trace your roots in Mozambique?

Of course. I did a documentary about four years ago called ‘who do you think you are?

In that documentary I helped a lot of people trace their family roots as I also traced part of my roots and managed to get the whole history about how my parents got to be in South Africa.

I mostly learnt that they were escaping war when they fled to Mzansi.

My grandparents are still alive and I usually visit them but what I am still trying to figure out is whether my father had other children in Mozambique or he just started his family life in South Africa.

Q:  You were recently engaged in a sponsored walk across African countries. Please share more.

We were doing the Daraja walk. It’s a multi layered walk which means it had to do with a lot of things.

One of the things we were trying to do is reconnect with what is happening across our borders.

With all the xenophobic attacks that had happened in South Africa, my walk was in a way trying to show that we are one Africa and trying to understand other Africans as I passed through their countries.

I noticed that the reason why most of South Africans would shun other Africans is because they stay in so much comfort and have never experienced what other people are fleeing from their countries.

By walking in these African countries I was trying to spread the message that we should reconnect with one another and be one.

When you walk across the continent, you are no longer viewed as Motswana or South African but as an African.

All I wanted to show is that South Africans still have the spirit of Ubuntu even though some have ill treated foreigners before.

Q:  How was the experience and reception as you walked across Africa?

We walked from Mafikeng up to Kenya. We didn’t literally walk all the way to our destination; we lacked equipment so in some areas we boarded public transport.

All in all we walked about 470 kilometers. We did 40 kilometers a day and took support vehicles with us.

But for part of the distance we didn’t have support vehicles so it was very tough like for instance, from Francistown to Nata we had to take a bus because the road has a high population of wild animals.

From Nata we walked into Zambia and went on and on.

It was a great experience and what I like is that we had not announced to anyone that we were embarking on this walk but people welcomed us wherever we went.

We managed to connect with people at a human level which means that we had no comfortable hotels and flashy cars on sight.

I met most of my fans in the process.

Q:  Do you have your own family?

I have an adorable son but unfortunately I am no longer with the mother due to life reasons. I stay with my boy. It’s not easy raising a child as a single parent but with God time is moving swiftly and the boy is growing up fast.

Q: You seemed attached to Botswana so much. Why?

My music started receiving so much airplay here more than in South Africa. DJ Sly was the first radio presenter to play and popularise my music and ever since, I feel this is home.

Q: You have smoked so many cigarettes since we started this interview. Don’t you think you need deliverance from the addiction?

(Laughs) Not really Mr. Dan. I haven’t had any cigarette this morning and I am about to board a flight and as you know smoking is not allowed in the airplane so I just have to do it now. I guess this is my last one for the day.

Q: Thank you for your time Jabba. What‘s good for the weekend?

I missed my son so if not booked to perform anywhere out I will be home with him.

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