From rehab to Broadway . . . Bots arts reach new corners

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Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone
‑ It has been a year of mixed fortunes for Botswana arts, with popular rapper ATI checking into a rehabilitation centre over a drug problem, while the country's traditional music touched new heights, after prolific dance troupe, I Love Botswana Ensemble, performed at the biggest stage, the Broadway in New York.
ATI’s checking into rehabilitation and the I Love Botswana Ensemble's electrifying performance in the heart of New York, were two of the most prominent arts stories in the country.
Young rapper, ATI, who last year released the chart bursting 'Kiring Korong', was riding the crest of the wave when, suddenly in winter, he announced he was checking into a rehabilitation centre over an undisclosed problem.
He had to cancel live shows between July and September as he sought to overcome what was later revealed as a drug problem.
ATI recently admitted that he was battling to overcome drug abuse but was back on stage as the year winds down.
The artist won six awards at the annual Botswana Music Awards (BOMU) last year and his star was on the rise, until the revelation that he was battling drug addiction.
While ATI's story depressed most music fans, there was soothing news when dance troupe, I Love Botswana, were booked to perform at the world's biggest theatre stage, the Broadway in New York.
The 52-member group performed a production titled 'Pula' at the 'Great White Way' on August 22 and 23.
"It traces how rain brings human, plants and animals under one Botswana sky through traditional song and dance," the production's director, Andrew Kola, said ahead of their New York trip.
The ensemble left an indelible mark on American soil, with Botswana traditional song and dance's reputation remarkably enhanced on the international scene.
Back home, artists battled to produce the expected quality in the studio, with only a late surge towards the festive season, retrieving some lost hope.
One of the country's top kwasa kwaito artists, Vee Mampeezy, a winner of South Africa's Metro award in 2017, released 'Dololo', which appeared to be the one-eyed king, as productions largely underwhelmed in 2018.
DJ Kuchi and Han-C's 'Rejection' was another notable release, although they fall short of the high standards local music is renowned for.
Young Motlha released his debut album, 'Mmamotse', which did well on the local front.
The year witnessed the 'ugly' as the annual edition of the Hamptons Jazz Festival left a sour taste in the mouth. Some artists were unpaid and scores of music fans complained of a below par show, which has thrown the future of the popular jazz festival into doubt.
The organisers were left with a huge bill to settle, and the sixth edition is unlikely to be held next year.
Parastatal, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) lost P3 million in a botched deal to bring British singer, Seal, the 'Kiss from a Rose' hitmaker, after paying upfront before tying the deal's loose ends.
The arts headlines were not complete without Motswako artist, Kast's involvement. The rapper yet again embarked on a sponsored walk, this time doubling the distance from 2017's 1,000 kilometres to 2,000 kilometres this year.
However, both the walk and Tlatsa Lebala show were a flop as less than 20 people bothered to turn up for the music festival, a development which will likely see the end of Kast's short-lived initiative, which was introduced in 2017.

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