Sereetsi & The Natives Release 3rd Album
Sereetsi & The Natives has announced the release of the act’s third studio album due June 30th 2021. The album, which is entitled, I Am Afrika, presents one of Botswana’s most beloved creative forces in its most collaborative phase to date. The 9 track album features some of the most exciting singer-songwriters and instrumentalists from Botswana and the world. Star features include US fast rising headliner and multi-award winning singer-songwriter and guitarist Jackie Venson, Nigerian multi-award winning heavy-hitter Brymo, Swedish soul crooner Oscar Soul Experience, South African multi-award winner Berita, SAMA award winning jazz piano maestro Bokani Dyer, Zambian stars Wezi and James Sakala as well as Botswana’s powerhouse singer-songwriter Han C. The album is produced by singer-songwriter and four stringer Tomeletso Sereetsi and Mikael Rosen who also plays drums on seven of the songs. Rosen also mixed and mastered the album, which was largely recorded at Lab In The Loop and Light House Studios.
“This was the most challenging and most fun album to make because of the unusually many and diverse collaborators for a Sereetsi & The Natives album. I would usually have a team of four or five musicians that would play on all songs in an album but this time around I picked a different team of musicians for each song depending on the creative outcomes I was going for,” says Sereetsi.
He says he believes that I Am Afrika is still very much a Sereetsi & The Natives album despite the rich contributions of his culturally diverse co-stars.
“I sent them the music that I composed and the lyrical content I was going for. So they worked within a sort of architecture that I already welded into place. I invited them into my world and they made it theirs and ours in a very special way,” says Sereetsi.
He says that the making of the album was also a challenge as it had to happen during the Covid 19 pandemic.
“It was very difficult to raise funding as the music industry went into total shutdown. That was the low point. But on the bright side, the creative pursuit was enriching and gave me hope that there will be a much joyous future where people will leave their houses to rejoice in the music once again. The making of the music was cathartic. It healed me and kept my spirit alive,” he says.
Sereetsi also makes special mention of natives (natives are Sereetsi & The Natives supporters/ fans) who contributed financially towards the production of CDs.
“I was lucky to have the cost of production of the CDs covered in part by some of the natives. I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. They want nothing in return. All they want is for the native sounds to keep playing on and on,” he says.
The songs in the album are namely The Afrika Song - It’s Our Time Now featuring Berita, Wezi, James Sakala, Mia Ismi and Afrika, Masheleng, Thelela featuring Brymo, Mathombo featuring Oscar Soul Experience, Tshaba featuring Han C, Ga o Yo, Koma featuring Jackie Venson, Heelang! and Rato Lame featuring Bokani Dyer.
“I Am Afrika is largely about bringing Africans and humanity together to celebrate and embrace our rich diversity of musics, languages and cultures. And I was blessed to bring so many of the world’s most talented creatives together for this musical expression and celebration,” Sereetsi says.
Gigging in the Time of Covid19
For the first time, Sereetsi & The Natives last week hosted a resoundingly successful live online concert dubbed Serubing Live Session.
"I had my first Facebook Live concert on my artist page that was a resounding success. It went for well over 1hour 30 minutes. The demand for another one was huge. As part of the concerts, I am sharing words of encouragement as well messages from health officials. I have also contributed to the Covid19 campaign on Botswana government Facebook page," says Sereetsi.
Sereetsi says the Covid19 lockdown means that artists cannot earn a living. The online concert is part of an effort to raise a buck and hopefully, be able to also contribute to the Botswana national Covid19 Relief Fund.
"I am planning the next Facebook Live concert for Thursday 23 April 2020 at 730PM. The concert series is called Serubing Live Session 2. The first was Serubing Session 1. Music lovers can tune into the live concert by liking and following my artist page so that they alerted of the performances when they happen. This is the link to the Sereetsi & The Natives artist page, https://www.facebook.com/SereetsiTheNatives/" he says.
It is also an opportunity to create new music and strategise for the new post-Covid19 environment.
"As they say "adapt or die", it is time to prime myself not to be left behind in the ensuing new business normal. I will be hosting online concerts for as long as the lockdown continues. People need music to take their spirits off the gloom and doom of Covid19. If I may add, it is time artists explored the potential revenue avenue that is the online world. While the old way will still be most important, the silver lining with Covid19 is that we are forced to realise the potential of the internet and to make it work economically for us," he says.
Sereetsi adds that the lockdown provides him a chance to spend time with family, recharge his batteries and reflect on my work and my place in the world.
Sereetsi & The Natives started 2020 with a performance in Netherlands at the Utrecht Tourism Fair in January and was billed to perform at ITB in Berlin, Germany, in March. On return from Germany, he was scheduled to play Hamptons Jazz Festival alongside other stars from six African countries. Then head out to Maun for the colourful African Attire on Fleek festival.
Despite the year having just started, Sereetsi was already booked for festivals and gigs in Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Lesotho and Sweden. That was until Covid19 wrecked havoc across the world!
"There were also corporate gigs in the form of conferences and product launches. Everything has ben cancelled. There is no guarantee that events that have postponed to the end of the year will actually happen," says Sereetsi. 'We are however hopeful that the disease will be contained soon so that we get to work".
Who is Sereetsi & The Natives?
Sereetsi is the composer, guitarist, producer, arranger and singer behind the music.
The Natives are the supporters, the fans and the audience.
The 'natives' refers to the fact that the foundation of the Sereetsi & The Natives product is the musical heritage of the native cultures of Botswana. It is an acknowledgement by Sereetsi that his songwriting and production exploits the sonic and rhythmic templates that have been handed down orally over generations of the people of Botswana. The native is not only an individual native to Botswana. The term also refers to anyone at any particular moment who connects with the sound and spirit of the music.
Sereetsi & the Natives is a refreshing unique voice in the World Music arena. The act's strong songwriting and performance in its debut album, Four String Confessions (April 2015) and its sophomore studio outing, Motoko (April 2018), present a fearless sound that blends traditional Botswana rhythms with influences such as jazz, pop, blues and classical music. At the heart of the Sereetsi & The Natives’ sound is the signature sound and unique tradition of the Tswana four string folk guitar.
The debut album yielded four Botswana Music Awards in 2016 - Best Single, Best Male Artist, Best Folk Album and Best Newcomer. Sereetsi & The Natives boasts of a steadily growing international performance credit.
2019 - What a year!
Sereetsi & The Natives closed off 2019 by putting on a spectacular showing at one of Africa’s biggest festive season musical extravaganzas, The Vic Falls Carnival in Zimbabwe (December 30, 2019). This followed a second mini-tour of Sweden with 6 dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg in September 2019. The act started 2019 bringing the house down at the internationally acclaimed Bushfire Festival in eSwatini (May 24, 2019) with a riveting stage performance before heading out to Europe to play the Whitsun Heritage Festival in Hungary (June 9, 2019).
Still in June 2019, Sereetsi & The Natives thrilled audiences in Nairobi, Kenya playing the Artistic Encounters Series at the Goethe Institut on June 26th 2019 and the popular Thursday Nite Live at J’s Westlands on June 27th 2019. Some of the act’s other international performances to date include a stop-over in Chicago, USA (2016), dates in Stockholm, Sweden (2016) and a showing at Planetta World Music Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden (2016).
Sereetsi & The Natives has also starred at Ake Arts & Book Festival, Lagos, Nigeria (2018), Sesolo Festival in Mozambique (2018) and in South Africa; the Moshito Street Festival (2018), Mahika Mahikeng Jazz Festival (2018, 2016 & 2015), Kgalagadi Jazz Festival (2016 & 2017) and the Cultural Calabash Fest in Durban (2015). The act has also played the International Jazz Day Concerts in Namibia (April 2019) and further embarked on a 10 date tour of South Africa in 2016.
In Botswana, Sereetsi & The Natives has headlined all the major live music festivals and continues to maintain a busy corporate gig schedule. The act headlined the Gaborone International Music and Culture Week in August 2016 with US/SA smooth jazz star, Jonathan Butler, and returned in 2018 alongside Musiq Soulchild. And is set to headline the 2020 edition on August 29, 2020. Sereetsi & the Natives has also played the Maitisong Arts Festival, Maun International Arts Festival, The Hamptons International Jazz Festival (and has been booked to headline the 2020 edition on March 28th), BNSC Awards, Mascom Live Sessions, Son of The Soil and the President’s Concert, the three-day Okavango Delta Music Festival. Sereetsi & The Natives has shared the stage with, among others, Anthony Hamilton, Zahara, Selaelo Selota, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Oliver Mtukudzi, Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbulu, Jonas Gwangwa, Stimela & Ray Phiri and Freshlyground, among many others. In 2017, Sereetsi collaborated with Zambian star Mumba Yachi and South African bassist and singer AusTebza in a project called Kgalagadi Soul that played festivals in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Gaborone, Mafikeng and Durban.
Sereetsi is also considered a pioneer on the cultural landscape in Botswana. His 83 page guitar instructional book/ CD on his native folk guitar tradition entitled The Solo Four String Guitar of Botswana is a ground breaking first.
Sereetsi & the Natives Launches Annual Music Festival
Sereetsi & the Natives was in Chicago, US starting September 28th to October 4th 2016 for CD Baby’s DIY Musicians Conference that was held at the Congress Plaza Hotel. “The conference was a huge networking opportunity. It exposed me to new cutting edge ideas relating to the creative and business side of the craft and allowed me to meet fellow artists and leading industry players from across the world. I cannot ask for a better platform to sharpen my understanding of the business of music in all its constantly shifting complexities,” said singer songwriter and author, Tomeletso Sereetsi, in a press statement. Sereetsi & the Natives also performed at Uncommon Ground with Chicago singer songwriter Hannah Frank on September 29th. "This was my debut appearance on US soil and I am indebted to Hannah for agreeing to organise the gig for me and sharing the bill with me. We hope that it will set the tone for further collaboration and an extensive tour of the Chicago area and the US in the near future,” Sereetsi said. The trip to the US was sponsored by US Embassy in Gaborone. “Special thanks to the US embassy in Gaborone for helping us with travel and accommodation costs for this trip. The contribution will go a long way in developing the arts sector in Botswana as the trip is about skills development and empowerment,” said Sereetsi.
Sereetsi & the Natives Plays Swedish World Music Festival
Sereetsi & the Natives starred in Sweden’s premier world music festival known as Planetta from November 2-6, 2016. The Gothenburg based festival scheduled the Botswana act for a record four performances alongside some of the best musicians across the world such as Cheikh Lo. “I took the appearance at the festival seriously as it was my first on European soil. I looked at it as the introduction of the native sound to European shores and an opportunity to break into that market,” says Sereetsi. Sereetsi was backed by some of the best Swedish musicians - David Bäck on piano, Tobias Grim on guitar, Johan Jansson on drums and Stefan Bergman on bass. “I was honoured to work with this crop of highly experienced musicians who have backed some of the best world music stars,” says Sereetsi. While in Sweden, Sereetsi also taught and conducted workshops for music students at Gothenburg’s Harryda School of Arts and Culture. “I was at the school starting October 24th to November 6th 2016. It’s a great opportunity for cultural exchange and for putting Botswana’s best attributes on the map,” says Sereetsi, who is also the author of a Tswana guitar instructional book/CD entitled The Solo Four string Guitar of Botswana. Sereetsi then proceeded to Stockholm on November 6th for a number of performances.
Sereetsi & the Natives Tours South Africa
Sereetsi & the Natives has announced a tour of South Africa beginning August 12th 2016 to September 6th that will see the band playing a number of dates in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Mafikeng and Pietermaritzburg. “This is part of our greater plan to grow our footprint internationally. We have just returned from an outing with Namibian world music star, Elemotho, on July 9th 2016 at Windhoek’s Warehouse Theatre. The tour is a continuation of efforts to share the Natives rhythms with the rest of the world,” says Sereetsi. The personnel for the tour is Sereetsi on four string guitar and lead vocals, US born Terry Lewis on alto saxophone, Leroy Nyoni on drums/vocals and Kabelo Tamukate on bass. “We are going to play over 12 shows in South Africa. We want to make the tour an annual one, which will include other countries going forward,” says Sereetsi. The singer/songwriter who is also the author of the groundbreaking instructional book/CD, The Solo Four String Guitar of Botswana, says the tour is at the moment an entirely self-funded effort. “We would like any support we can get, be it inviting your South African friends to check us out at a venue near them or spreading the word on social media. We welcome support from the private sector to help us with the costs of the tour,” he says. Sereetsi & the Natives has already played three big festivals in South Africa – The Calabash in Durban, Mahika Mahikeng Jazz Fest in Mafikeng and the Kgalagadi Jazz festival in Kuruman. The act is one of the most popular in Botswana with a number of hits from its critically acclaimed 2015 debut, Four String Confessions, such as Robete, Thaa Kokome and Robete on regular rotation on radio. Its sound combines Botswana rhythms and verse with influences such as jazz and folk rock.
Sereetsi, Butler Headline GIMC Jazz
Sereetsi & the Natives is set to headline the Gaborone International Music and Culture Week on August 27th 2016 with US smooth jazz star, Jonathan Butler. This will be Sereetsi & the Natives second consecutive showing at the annual festival, one of the biggest in Botswana after playing a duo unplugged set (alto saxophone and four string guitar) last year. "I am bringing a full band to the stage this year. It's such a huge honour for me to share the stage with the legendary Jonathan Butler and some of the best of Botswana's musicians," says Sereetsi. Already Sereetsi has shared the stage with established world music names like Oliver Mtukudzi, Vusi Mahlasela, Caiphus Semenya, Jaziel Brothers, Letta Mbulu and McCoy Mrubata. Sereetsi & the Natives has also collaborated on recording and stage performance with US jazz band, Anthony Stanco and the Crucial Elements. It has played the Hamptons International Jazz Festival, the Maun International Arts Festival, inaugural Kgalagadi Jazz festival in Kuruman, South Africa, the Mahika Mahikeng Jazz festival in Mafikeng, South Africa and the Cultural Calabash Festival in Durban, South Africa.