By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone – After graduating from the University of Botswana with a BA in Humanities in 2004, Tomeletso Sereetsi headed straight to the newsroom.
He became a prolific, established feature writer, fitting like hand in glove in a demanding industry. Sereetsi appeared settled in journalism, but deep down, his passion; music, continued to burn.
“I have always been an artist. I have done theatre, storytelling and poetry at junior secondary school. It is only that my work as a journalist introduced my name to the general public but in my hometown, Francistown, I was known as a theatre artist for years,” Sereetsi told The Southern Times this week.
He is a rare breed of ‘educated musicians’ with the perception that music is for school drop-outs, still overwhelming in some parts of Africa. In fact, he climbed the newsroom ladder, holding several senior positions at leading publications and radio station.
He said his shift from the newsroom to the studio has been seamless, with the two industries somewhat related.
“It was not a difficult decision at all. I knew that if doesn’t work out, I could go back to the newsroom where I had already made my name.
“Journalism and music are similar in many ways – the story is king. You are as good as your last story/song. It’s about deadlines, quality control. Once you cut more than one copy it’s about the audience/readers.”
Sereetsi has two albums to his name, the debut, ‘Four String Confessions’ released in 2015, and ‘Motoko’, which is fresh on the shelves, after its release in April this year.
His debut album firmly established him in the market with hits such as ‘Robete’ and ‘Thaa Kokome’.
His contemporary folk music has won admiration even across borders, as he has performed in South Africa, Namibia, Sweden and the USA.
He has shared the stage with renowned artists like Oliver Mtukudzi, Vusi Mahlasela , Caiphus Semenya, Jonas Gwangwa and US jazz star, Jonathan Butler.
Sereetsi’s first album netted him several local awards, including best single, best male artist, best folk album and best newcomer at the Botswana Music Awards in 2016.
“The first album was about established Sereetsi and The Natives as a solid brand. It did exactly that. The second album is about building on the first and pushing for more international presence.
“The first [album] was more pared down in terms of instrumentation. The latest has more instrumentation. It’s more layered and varied stylistically.
“They are, however, both cut from the same cloth- deep Tswana groves,
great songwriting, arrangements, storytelling and poetry.”
After penetrating the local and regional market, Sereetsi is keen to continue growing his international profile.
“I have done all the big stages at home. It is a huge honour and pleasure to play for the natives at home but I want more. There are natives all around the world that I want to meet,” Sereetsi said.
The band’s name is derived from Sereetsi’s name, and he says the group’s fans are the natives.