Botswana’s sensational musical trio takes us inside what makes them tick. ONTAMETSE SUGAR reports
The MMP family's lyrical talent and their looks prove why they are the real deal. The family is constituted by three gentlemen. The trio is super talented and totally unique. They are Tebogo Baipidi (Mzico), Modiri Nage (Mod) and Mothusi Jackalas (Ples). The group’s name is drawn from their stage names initials.
They first came together in 2003 when they were still in secondary school. They would sing and mimic other people's songs, but one defining from early on was their love for different genres of music. Mod has always loved hip hop while Mzico and Ples were sworn to Kwaito. They grew up in the same neighbourhood in Gaborone West. They took a joint promise - to pursue music upon finishing high school. Their first album was released in 2006.
In 2008 they met someone who advised them to do a single. They came up with four songs, from which were to select the best single. But they found themselves with 10 songs that they felt were quite nice that made them realise that they were capable of releasing a good album.
In 2009 a fresh single called Basadi was released in September, which played for the first time at Yarona FM. According to them, people did not love the song that much saying there was too much noise and it carried no message behind it. Ples said that though the comments were negative, they never took them in a bad way but used them to make themselves better. The same year they said they met another man called Sthibo who volunteered to help them after realising that their songs were nice but needed improvement in quality. In 2010 they started recording the first track. The track was recorded during the first game of the 2010 World Cup between South Africa and Mexico. “The track was called Tlala ka Lepantsola, and then Ayoba and For U,” he said. After recording the three songs, they hit the stage – focusing more on performing the songs while working on other recordings.
Their big break came in 2012 through when they launched an album dubbed ‘Mo spacing’. That year they were nominated to perform at the St Louis Summer festival with a live band and when the Botswana Music Union (BOMU) awards followed they scooped the Best Kwaito album. They were also nominated for Best Group and Best Newcomer.
As fame grew so were the challenges of organizing themselves. They needed a manager and Pogiso ‘Slim’ Mokgweetsi fit the bill and hence was employed in 2013.
In 2014 they released a single ‘Problem Child’, followed shortly by another – Lebala ka Nna – a hit that has won the group a huge acclaim.
On what inspired the hit, MMP revealed that they wrote the song in Maun. It was particularly penned down by Mod and Ples after going through heartbreaks of breaking up with their girlfriends. They also have a song called Makheneke, with very strong lyrics that talks about someone who has many partners. They said that every song that they write is their personal experience. This is main connection that they have with their fans because almost every song that they sing, people are able to relate to it. They do not sign fantasy songs because that will not help the next person with anything. “Our messages are for everyone, from a kid in the township who is hopeless and wondering whether they will make it in life to a mother or father who does not understand that kids can be different.”
Though it might look good to be always booked and performing at every show, the young men said it comes with challenges. They have to be on their toes to ensure that they do not end up boring their fans and hence have to provide some twists to the songs as they sing. Fatigue also takes a toll on them. To mitigate this they also insure that they are in top shape with a strict training regime. A busy weekend often sees them doing up to four shows. They take two hours to rehearse for every show that they go to.
Their manager is happy about the successes that the group has managed to accomplish. They have had music play on BBC radio and currently have their CDs sold at Mafia Soul – a hip hop merchandise selling retailer. He expressed his excitement for the barriers that they broke through despite singing a mix of Kwaito, Hip-Hop and Motswako. Mokgweetsi said they also have a contract with a local clothing company where they sell MMP branded caps and other merchandise. He said it is not only the music aspect that they are focusing on but rather making sure that they succeed business wise. He said right now they do more of the corporate shows, but there is no weekend that they go without a booking. “From the beginning of this year we haven't had any rest. Last December we were fully booked, and even right now we have already been booked for December shows,” he said. Some of the challenges that they face currently is that of events coordinators who do not communicate with artists well. He said as MMP they want to have very good working microphones because all three of the members perform, recalling a show that they did not perform since the microphones were not enough.
He urged the government to diversify arts more so that they can play an important role in making people understand Botswana and know the country by funding them to go and shoot their videos at tourist places, the same way some other countries do. He said the grants offered by Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture are limiting and the policies do not support artists very well. He said in partnership with Yarona FM they have a CSI programme where they share their experiences with the kids and help direct them in life.
Alcohol, ladies and prayer
The trio differs in personalities and preferences. Ples does not drink alcohol while others do. With regard to them being bothered by ladies, they said that discipline is what makes them grounded and the respect that they have for themselves, where they all treat all their supporters with love but also know that there is a limit to that. “We leave home prepared and know why we are doing this. Girls are not any of those reasons. We are building our brand and we do our best to guard that,” Ples said. He teasingly said their car is only enough for them but got no space for girls. Some girls would just want to get into the car with them but they never let that happen.
They referred to prayer as something that keeps them together and contributes to their success. They said that they are just easy people as one of their songs says, and people should not be afraid to approach them. They said that they make sure that they are not compelled by anyone even the media to live a certain kind of lifestyle. They referred to education as the most important thing, with Mod and Mzico being tertiary graduates while Ples is completing his studies this year.
Vocals, dancing, movies
With their vocals that are perfectly upright, they referred to them as their weapon because they always want to make sure that people hear what is not only in the CD but rather know they can actually sing like that. They don't dance too much, and focus more on ensuring that their vocals are very good. They said with the price that they charge they don't budge because they know that they put their all and can never let the fans down. The trio and their manager said when not on stage thy just stay at home, or go and do their personal businesses and then come back to watch movies, sport and play video games. Ples humorously said the other ones don't know how to cook, while they countered that declaring that it is him who actually can't cook to save himself.