Let’s face it. Building of National Music Recording Studios and a National Music Library are long overdue. But how will this project be executed in an era where the industry has grown organically while government planning and resource investment lags behind. The question and fear that lies with independent private recording studio owners and producers is what is government trying to achieve by recording artists for free? Won’t this lead to sub quality product influx into the market? Or take them out of business? For me I think the idea is good and well overdue because artists from rural areas are disadvantaged and do not have recording facilities. If you screen the artists that just performed at the just ended Presidents Competitions 80% of them don’t have a single album out. Reason being there are no recording facilities in their villages and recording an album is expensive.
Botswana is not the first country to have such an initiative, Bophuthatswana had the legendary BOP Recording Studios where artists like Phempheretlhe and Alfredo Mos recorded their debut albums. My advice to government will be to rather invest in mobile recording studios over and above the ones in Gaborone. Mobile recording studios will allow artists from remote areas to have access to the studios cheaper than travelling to Gaborone. What the government needs to do is partner with BOMU, recording an artist is not similar to organizing an event where you can simply deploy government officers. There are a lot of things involved like identifying suitable engineers, producers, session musicians, mixing and mastering of the albums. So all these people need to be paid and contracts signed before they touch anything in the studio otherwise they can come back and claim ownership of the songs one example of a badly managed studio session that is well known is for the song “Sister Bethina” which was recorded in a party by a DJ and a friend. The friend ended up calling himself Magrimbe and the DJ Big T both released the song as theirs it ended as a copyright dispute. BOMU can assist and has the capacity and the knowledge to assist in this this project as a technical partner. If government goes at it alone this is going to be a big failure because we all know most artists like to record at night and that time government officers have knocked off. I don’t know any talented musician who likes to wake up at 8am and have the creativity to come up with a hit in the morning.
Building studios creates a platform for creating an indigenous record label that can market and distribute music locally and globally because once these artists finish recording their albums they need a marketplace. As ambitious on paper as this project looks it needs bravery and fearless people with guts to take it off the ground, and serious commitment of resources from govt. I wish all those involved in this project the best of luck and advise them to work with private studio owners and producers all the time for greater success. There are endless opportunities here like setting CD Plants in Ghanzi and Maun, setting up music distribution kiosks for the unemployed and in the process creating employment so those who are involved take a crack at this!
Yours in Music
Seabelo Modibe-Arts Activist