Twenty-year-old Keemanao Ramatlotla defies odds – he has played Marimba from the age of six, become a regular performer at corporate gigs and now he wants to teach people about how it is done. Standing between him and that is a certificate or recognisable qualification to be accepted, yet there is no school that offers such locally. ONTAMETSE SUGAR has been bowled over by his skill and sheer determination.
Children do not choose the families and the circumstances that they are born under. Keemenao Ramatlotla is a 20 year old young man raised at the SOS village, who overcame odds to follow his dream. He is a talented marimba player, who leads the SOS marimba group – one of the best in the country. At the regular corporate gigs and events around the country, Ramatlotla’s talent with the instruments never goes unnoticed. He joined the SOS family at a very young age. Since they do career plans of every child, they realised that marimba was what Ramatlotla loved to do from a young age and they nurtured that. Program Director at SOS Village Tlokweng, Oatametse Otlhomile, said sometimes it is a shame looking at the fact that most Batswana do not know what SOS is, and what kind of children they take care of. The SOS Village Tlokweng came into existence in 1987, and by then it only had six family houses, which have grown 16 now.
He said because some of their children have gone through very traumatic experiences, they had to devise something that will take their minds away from the ordeals that they got exposed to as children, and marimba came in handy as therapy. He said some come with their coordination affected, and they had to do those exercises in order to increase their coordination and response level. “Those who have interest in it are the ones that progress with it, but mostly it has been used as a therapeutic tool,” he said. When they started it was not an income generating venture, but it is people like Ramatlotla who made it into a good income stream. According to the coordinator, they are also happy about the integration into the society that marimba has helped with, because when children going out there to play they meet people who advise them and don’t treat them in any different way.
He said they always make sure that they give their children advice. They have raised among others a pilot and a software engineer. They even marry away those who want to start families. “With their bond with the mothers they always come back and say mama I am back, because this is home to them,” he said. The soft spoken Ramatlotla used to cry when he heard Marimba playing as a little child, and he could not understand what was going on within him. The SOS Director then took him there as a little boy, and from the age of six that is what he has been doing. It is one thing that he is able to express himself with and whenever he plays, he feels peaceful and nothing else matters. He referred to marimba as his first love, his comforter and joy. He wants to see himself teaching and playing marimba not only in Botswana, but across borders. He is able to play all the marimba keys and instruments, and can even amazingly perform solo.
The 20-year-old said he finds it hard to be hired as a Marimba teacher because a certificate or qualification of some kind is always required. Passion keeps him going despite all. He started performing at corporate gigs when he was just 10 years. He is also part of the Thapong Marimba group. “I help a lot of teachers at government schools, and I really want to get my own equipment where I can be able to teach people and get paid,” he said. Talking with a somber tone, you could hear in his voice that he is more than determined to achieve this. He said he feels special when people acclaim him for his performance after shows. He usually sees his videos on YouTube being played many times. He has featured at the annual Tourism Expo in Kasane, and Embassies among other places and occasions.