"For those who may not be aware, a LIVE band performance is one of the most team-oriented endeavours in a musician’s life and career," says Game.
"For those who may not be aware, a LIVE band performance is one of the most team-oriented endeavours in a musician’s life and career," says Game.|Source: Pixabay
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Changing How We Exchange in Botswana’s Creative Industries

Game 'Zeus' Bantsi explores how we exchange (Value/Ideas/Impact) in Botswana's creative industries

By Game 'Zeus' Bantsi

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My last full set performance with a band at a LIVE event was on the 1st of March 2020 at the Jazz Xchange. That was exactly ten days before the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 Coronavirus a pandemic and life as we knew it ceased to exist. “Lockdown” as well as “new normal” became social dynamic shifting buzzword and catch phrase respectively. It is barely six months ago that I first got the invitation to grace the stage at one of Botswana’s most established concept events, which is known to host a range of artists across genres and “jazzify” their catalogue creating a fusion of contemporary African genres with the iconic Jazz sound that could arguably be labelled black urban cultures first real pop music genre in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century.

For those who may not be aware, a LIVE band performance is one of the most team-oriented endeavours in a musician’s life and career. There is a need to have the utmost dedication to a cause that is bigger than one’s individual talents. Ironically, this process begins with the pre-requisite individual talents that bring together a collective of people set apart by the fact that they bring something exceptionally unique to the table that complements the next person’s abilities. The drummer sets the beat which drives tempo, keyboardists and guitarists bring melody to most songs while the bass carries elements of rhythm/groove while in HipHop and RnB (Rhythm and Blues) a lot of soul and funk as well. Backing vocalists add harmonies that strengthen and punch key parts of the lead vocals that are typically at the forefront of the showcase. This is the canvas and set of colours from a never ending palette, that allows me as a Rapper and Vocalist to re-articulate (with what feels like new yet consistent expressions every time) the feeling that came with the composition of every song in my repertoire. I cannot mention that without crediting the Producers and Composers who composed the music that accompanies the lyrics in every one of those songs.

The process of bringing all of these elements together starts with the compilation of a set-list that is then meticulously analysed and broken down into keys, chords and arrangements which can lead to re-arrangements. To drive this intense pre-production work you ideally need a Band Leader or Music Director, if not both. Hours (if not days) are spent picking songs and determining the individual as well as collective order of the music in the pieces, before the work of learning the notes and arrangements begins. The shared vision derived from pre-production is critically fundamental to the understanding each member of the collective brings to the role they have to fulfil as well as what it means for the next person. It is what should guide and inform every creative choice and action during the long hours of rehearsal required to pull off a flawless presentation.

Game 'Zeus' Bantsi
Game 'Zeus' BantsiSource: Game Bantsi

This collective vision should be a safe space that gives all involved the chance to discover parts of the next team member’s essence and their own too in the process. Therein begins the powerful exchange of ideas that I believe are not only musical but philosophical and dare I say physiological. The connections between one band member’s freestyle improvisation and sparking an idea in another’s approach to a song are what you want to foster as a band leader or music director. The exchanging and implementation of these ideas (mostly through trial and error) ultimately lead to finding the best way to share a piece of music that can literally be interpreted in a thousand different ways if not more.

Why am I reminiscing on the LIVE performance creative process and the not so far gone yesterday that feel like a lifetime ago? Because I think we all need to be rethinking what engagement, connection, collaboration and ultimately exchange can look like going forward under these unprecedented times for modern human beings. My working theory is that a lot of us as individuals, organisations, sectors and even entire industries lost our connection to our ecosystems, effectiveness and real impact long before the COVID-19 Pandemic. For over a decade now I have strived to build not only my own enterprises in the Botswana and African Creative Industries respectively, but I have lobbied for and participated in processes attempting to improve policies and structures that can impact the sector and its value chains positively. This has led to me wearing several hats beyond that of an Artist and Creative Entrepreneur.

As a Founder-Director of Do It Yourself Entertainment and an artist that is currently signed to Sony Music Africa, I have come to better understand the role of Recording Labels, Management Labels, Publishers, Advertising Agencies, Event Managers and more that we have worked with while modelling parts of our business around some of these key functions that smaller Entertainment companies tend to integrate into their operations alongside core functions. As a Co-Director at Jam For Brunch I’ve learned even more around the eventing/experiential aspects of the industry, while my term as a Non-Executive Director at the Copyright Society of Botswana has been eye opening especially in terms of corporate governance issues and the intellectual property value chain that can either help or hinder the growth of Creative Industries in an Economy. I have also immersed myself in Film and Television Production following my Honours Programme in Motion Picture Media at AFDA Botswana (which has now been rebranded as AWIL College) and developing several independent productions, of which one recently got a broadcast slot at Botswana Television following a successful assessment of the pilot. By the way that slot will only become a vehicle for the production once we secure brand partners to cover production costs in exchange for marketing value around the programme.

All of these experiences in different contexts around the world have led to me to a place where I can confidently say that Botswana is mostly missing the mark in its approach to growing and developing the Creative Industry in a truly transformational manner that can catalyse its economic and socio-cultural impact by harnessing and synergising the bubbles of activity all around us.

There have been several development milestones that we can celebrate over the years and decades in Botswana’s Creative Industries but generally they have been too few and far between. Most of these milestones have been plagued by our chronic “big launch, little sustainable delivery” syndrome that has seen many opportunities to leverage the establishment of much needed structures and policies implemented in a flawed if not negligent manner.

Live public performance
Live public performance Source: Pixabay

If our ecosystem was a band, the music would mostly characterised by discords, poor arrangements and lack of a shared vision that ultimately fail to get the best out of the talents attempting to collaborate. With these challenges and a disruptive pandemic of unparalleled proportions in mind, we truly need to re-imagine how we engage and exchange with different parts of the value chain.

Distilling and sharing these thoughts will require more than this one article, so allow me to break it down for you in four parts that will be exclusively shared on the Xchange platform before being cascaded to other platforms to allow for wider access. It goes without saying this is a conversation that requires all role players from audience to public and private sector, as well as Non-Governmental Organisations and regulatory authorities to understand the impact of every single decision they make regarding the production, distribution and consumption of creative content, so that all involved can make more informed choices that better serve Batswana, Africans and the Creative world at large.

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