The annual Hamptons Jazz festival is back with a bang this year. Some 15 legendary acts will grace Gaborone Club Grounds on February 27 from 12 noon to thrill jazz music lovers. When reminiscing about the birth of the event that now attracts many, one of the organisers Debbie Makabe Smith said from the beginning it was a very big challenge that was scary and exciting at the same time. They had two South African agents coning them the artists’ fees. “It was not good at all, but three years later one of the agents is still paying us back, which is good,” she said. They were naïve about contracts, she conceded about how they started, and that was harsh lesson.
Since then they have become very careful and have done a lot of research on jazz festivals around the globe to make sure that they bring the best to Gaborone. She declared proudly that after three years they have built a brand that is remarkable and recognised regionally by the neighbours and the world beyond. “The most important milestone is having a fan base that believes in us making the event the biggest Jazz event of the year,” she said. Smith promised fireworks this year. She said it will be live jazz at its best where ionic artists like Letta Mbuli and Caiphus Semenya who have not performed in Gaborone for a very long time will grace the stage.
The Hamptons’ Starr Ngwenya said this year they will welcome visitors from abroad. He said the past two events were trials, but now they have started logistics early with tickets selling four months before the event. Early bird tickets are already sold out. “It was a new phenomenon that caught our fans by surprise but it worked so we know a rough number we are expecting,” he said. Ngwenya said the line-up of performers is chosen by fans. He said they will throw in a couple of artists that they have seen in trending events like the Cape Town Jazz Festival. “They suggest and vote and it's normally a majority rule,” he said.
He said they hope to bring in artists from Europe, America and other parts of Africa as well as local artists regionally. He said after Beatenburg dropped from the line up fans were asked for replacement either locally or internationally and they decided to choose an international artist Nathi. “This can be frustrating to us as promoters as we are trying to promote local artists. We are now looking into what makes our fans choose internationals over locals,” he said. Some of the acts in the line-up are Stimela, The Soil, Sereetsi and the Natives and the Women of Jazz. Couple’s ticket costs P699, regular single tickets cost P480 while VIP tickets cost P1 500.
Ngwenya said they have applied for a workshop sponsorship to take advantage of the internationals that will be there and the directors to see what the locals can learn. He said they are also angling to strike collaboration deals too. In their fifth year, the Hamptons want to organise a two-day event and expect to pull crowds via music tourism both regionally and internationally thereby sustaining the economy and building temporary jobs for the public too. Since Botswana is celebrating 50 years this year, the organisers look at the jazz festival as one of the events to kick-off those celebrations.