In the mist of Botswana’s raging temperatures, The Afrolutionist’s resident contributor, Boitshepo Motsamai conversed with Mpho Sebina on her journey through music and setting her originality in stone. Laughs, ideas and new information which pieced Mpho’s singing and creativity together were shared over a light lunch with chilled drinks.
Your passion for singing and music, where did it really develop?
You know I’ve only discovered that I want to do it full-time after I finished university, so this was probably last year or the year before which I think was kind of late – but then I believe that everything has its own time. I mean I’ve always known that I could sing and enjoyed it but I never thought of pursuing it, however now I realized that this is what I need to do.
In terms of your singing talents, before you wanted to follow the passion would people say ‘hey should actually do this?
Uhm.. yeah I had a couple of people approach me, I messed around in a couple of studios with people who thought I could sing and stuff so yeah I got that a lot.
Your personal experience in terms of your family members and this talent of musicality, is it in your family?
I think it could be in your mother’s side because a lot of my cousins sing. It’s definitely from my mother’s side. I’m not the only singer.. Two of my cousins, one of them is Warona. I’m not sure if you saw the videos on YouTube, it was a performance on JazzXchange, she joined me on stage, and she’s my mom’s sister’s daughter, she is my first cousin. Another cousin of mine that I live with, there was this gospel music movement called gospel ambassadors and she auditioned and became one of them.
In terms of your personal genre, because most of your online music is covers, what genre do you lean towards?
It is more soulful neo, it is an infusion of a lot of things, I wouldn’t classify it as jazz but I would say it leans to a soulful mellow feel.
You know what I find interesting? usually with singers, when someone is unknown they would say the new so and so, but your voice’s originality and your entire sound, there isn’t really anything exactly like it, more so in an international level. More especially through your covers – your infusion of the African music and African-American music creates a symbolic merge of once separated people. What inspired this infusion?
Well, it is kind of something that I’ve always liked to do… the first time I did is when I went for a JazzXchange for perfect pitch. They had a JazzXchange in Cresta Hotel and so I went there and at the end of the night they said ‘okay whoever wants to jump on stage can come, were going to play Ain’t no Sunshine – who ever knows the lyrics should jump on stage’. It made me realize that I don’t want to do that, and then I went on stage and sang Oleku (a song by Ice Prince). From there the RMC people said that I should have my own show. From there when I had my JazzXchange the band members played the Erykah Badhu instrumental song and that I did Lorato to, because we like to put a few covers into the show. But I don’t like doing covers as is – not that its wrong, but I wanted to do something different for it to stand out.
You have a lot of coverage in terms of performances and live events in comparison to the commercial world?
Yes I don’t have anything playing on radio, but those that know me know me from my shows. The biggest show I’ve done last year was the RMC JazzXchange. I am working on my own music. however, just for people to know who I am I thought I should take advantage of this social media thing and do covers because I work at a studio in Tlokweng. I thought , let me just do covers, nothing hectic and just put it out there so people know that there’s this person out there.
Who are who working with in Tlokweng?
I’m working with B-Note, and Favi.
Isn’t Favi one of the pioneers of music development in Botswana?
Yes, he was the success behind Zeus’s first Single, Samantha Mogwe’s “transition”, and T K Zee and other South African artists. I have been working with him, B-note and GandPa.
So you have an album in the works?
Yes I do.
And do you have a release date set?
*sigh* I don’t want to say that but I would love to give myself my birthday which is July 18th – I’m hoping to be done by then.
That would also include commercial terms, so before the album release we should expect you more on media waves?
Yes, I do want o release a single before I do the whole album. We’re actually working on a video for the first single, called Love’s light.
Is it available or are you working on it?
I actually have it here, but it’s not released as of yet.
There is a song you performed called “No evil”, what is it based on?
It’s just about life… there are a lot of negative energies and you chose whether you are going to be affected by it or not.
Let’s talk about your covers, is it an introduction to the general sound of your original music well be expecting for your album?
Yes definitely that’s my kind of sound.
Your fans were asking if you were going to create an album on these creative covers…
Shakes head in disagreement
You write, right? You have a blog – would you just base your blog on stuff that other people have written?
Yeah.. I write so I just don’t see a point in taking something that’s already there and putting it out when I have my own originality.
I understand, as you say you want your own originality – it goes into your writing and music production. So do you work with a live band?
I do. The same guys who produce for me, play for me as well.
Do they have a band name?
It changes all the time! When I met them it was BFG, which stood for Big Friendly Giants or B-Note Favi and GrandPa but now its front porch so I don’t know what it’s going to be next month *laughs*
What are your aspirations for your music?
I want to sing man. I just want to sing. I want to travel the world with my music, I don’t want to make music for the point of just making music but I want it to do something positive for people.
Looking into your views on the music industry here, what do you think we need to do to ‘take ourselves more seriously’, as artists and the business sector are constantly at loggerheads. What do you think we can do to be able to build ourselves in the music industry in Botswana?
I think we need to start thinking of our music on a more global scale, you know you have to look at platforms that are going to take your music to the world, like how Nigerians don’t make music for them, and they make sure it goes everywhere. We all need to create work with the international audience in mind – it will increase our quality and professionalism
Thank you for the interview, we will be anticipating more of your music soon – more so your new unreleased single.