Mmemme Molapisi who has been in the local music industry since the seventies has just recorded her debut album. Molapisi who is a Programme Administrator at the Botswana National Productivity Centre holds a Diploma in Marketing. Today the mother of one and granny talks to Dubani-wa-Dubani about her music and shares her thoughts on the challenges facings the youths and nation today.

Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in Mmadinare and moved to Gaborone at a tender age. In that sense I am basically a town person. I enjoyed my childhood. My father was a policeman working for the Special Branch and my mother a housewife. They were very loving and caring. From my father I picked the discipline that has seen me through life so far. My mother was very musical. She was always singing and would at times lock herself in the bed room and dance to the hits of those times. She was my earliest musical influence. However the musical bug did not properly bite until 1975 when I was a student at Itereleng CJSS in Lobatse. I was neighbour to the now defunct Happy Times and one day one of them Sam Mokwena who knew my love for music invited me to jam with them and that was the beginning of my musical journey.

I am listening..
I was with Happy Times for about a year and after leaving I over the years played for a number of bands. I started off with imagine whose members included singer and blower Tsilo Baitsile. I them joined the Mahalapye group Breakers where I again hooked up with Sam Mokwena before joining Dave Bestman of the Minestone Jazz Band in Francistown in a group¬† called Shades. After leaving shades I came back to Gaborone and joined Kenny Ndaba’s Makgadikgadi in 1989. When Makgadikgadi disbanded in the early 90’s I decided to concentrate on raising my boy Kast and pursuing my career. I however continued jamming with different groups over the years.

One would have thought you had enough experience by then to pursue a solo career and recorded any album.
I would have loved to do that but the local music industry as exciting as it was did not have money. I had a child to raise and could not do that on the paltry sum I was making as an artist. Besides being little the money at times a very long time to come. At times we were not paid at all. Under the circumstances common sense dictated that I concentrate on my studies and marketing career. With hindsight I realise the wisdom of my decision. My son is a grown up man who has given me a grandson and I have done relatively well in my career. I am proud of myself as single parent and career woman.

Q. Talking about your boy Kast, how does it feel for you to record your first album when he is already a household name?
He is my son and I am proud of him and all he is doing and has done. In fact I backed him when he did his first album. We might be in the same competitive ego ridden industry but there is no animosity between us. We celebrate each other’s achievement and encourage each other. We worked on my album together, writing most of the songs together and co-produced it. We are a team and that’s it.

Q. A lot of artists are so egoistic so much that will not accept criticism even when it constructive. There is also a lot of jealousy and back biting. How do you survive that?
In this business you need a thick skin. When people criticize you must take it in your stride and use what is constructive to better yourself. One can also learn a lot from those who say harmful things. The jealousy in the industry is harming our music because it makes it very difficult to work with each other and grow the industry. I must say there are a few exceptions like Shanti Lo, Punah and Uncle John Selolwane. I could have worked with Shanti and Selolwane on my project but they were busy on Shanti’s latest album when I was doing mine. I invited a lot of other artists but they either had an excuse or promised to come but never did. I think we should learnt from the younger generation. They collaborate on a lot of projects and the success of their joint efforts is there for all to see.

Q. Is there anything the younger generation can learn from the old school?
Yes. I have realised that most young people in the music industry cannot play musical instruments and I encourage them pick up an instrument and learn. This will give them more control over their product and help them produce better music as they will understand what they are doing and not rely on other to make music for them. It is also easier to have you idea stolen when you cannot play any instrument. It will be very difficult to prove a piece of music is yours when you cannot demonstrate it on an instrument.

Q. You are amongst the single parents who managed to successful raise their children. What’s the secret?
I think the reason we have so many wayward children is that parents, single or otherwise do not give their children enough guidance. Most parents are more concerned with building careers and fortunes and have no time for their children. Most children do not grow into useful citizens because their parents never take time to know and guide them. They think the material things they acquire are all children need. A parent’s love will only mould a child best if it goes beyond expensive toys and gadgets.¬† They need your company and time. I sympathise with those parents who do their best but still seemed to fail. There will always be exceptional cases but those are few and far between. Young people should realise that they are facing the challenge of HIV/AIDS and should listen and take up any advice that will keep them from harm. They should concentrate on getting an education and keep away from alcohol, habit forming drugs and premature sexual activity.

Q. Besides the HIV/AIDS scourge and substance abuse are there any other challenges facing the nation that should be taken head on?
This might sound funny but I think something should be done about churches that are mushrooming all over the country. Most of these are headed by hypocrites who are more interested in making money than saving souls. Batswana are naturally fearful of God and these charlatans are taking advantage of them. Tithing has become big business and some unscrupulous pastors are robbing our people blind. I know of people who are now paupers because the preachers convinced them to give everything to the church as a way of purchasing the ticket to heaven. These days they do not accept coins as offerings. I went to this other church recently where the pastor made it clear that salvation cannot be purchased in coins. I was so horrified at this hypocrisy that I left and have never been back. It been about a month now and I do not see myself going to any of these churches. The interesting thing is that these churches are headed by foreigners. If these people have powers to heal why do they not visit hospitals and help the bed ridden. Authorities must do something before it too late. I like the president know that God does not keep a bank account. The money lines the preachers’ pockets. God forbid.

Thank you for taking to us.
Thanks too for taking your time and listening to me.


FULL NAME: Mmemme Retsalanyi Molapisi
DATE OF BIRTH: Mmadinare
AGE: Old Enough
FOOD: Morogo wa dinawa le Ting
DRINK: Water
COLOUR: Black and Blue
BOOK CURRENTLY READING: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
MUSIC: Jazz, Pop and Traditional
ARTIST: Fred Mercury, Shanti Lo

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