Culture Spears; the untold story
Culture Spears, made up of Kabelo Mogwe, Magdeline Lesolebe-Mogwe (Charma Gal), Thembeni Ramosetlheng (Rramozara) and Malaki Tapologo Lydia Oile is one of the most successful groups in Botswana’s local music industry. The group has been producing hit albums for the past years, gracing prominent events in and outside the country as well as bagging numerous awards. In all their years, they have made headlines in the media for both good and bad reasons; celebrated and condemned though little has been written about their musical journey.
“The idea of forming a musical group first occurred to me in December 2004 while I was sitting under a Motsentsela tree in Kasane. Thembeni and I decided to join Tse tilodi dance group in Kasane after senior school in Letlhakane. We used to perform in lodges around Kasane and the community called our group Zebras. Those days artists like Kgobola were big and people used to ask me if I did not want to follow in their footsteps, that motivated me to work harder,” Kabelo said.
Kabelo says he met Mmagwe George (Charma Gal) as he affectionately calls her at traditional dance competitions “She went to Moeng College and I was a year ahead of her. She was a very good dancer and stood out from the rest and I kept thinking to myself, ‘ngwanyana yo le yo moswaana wa Lerala wa emelela’. I met her again at a festival called Senei sa setso where I was a judge and she became the best dancer at the festival. I like associating myself with people who follow their passion and I could see that in mmagwe George,” he said.
Kabelo emphasizes that things were not always as easy as they had anticipated, thanking Jeff Matheatau for guidance in the early days, “Jeffery gave us guidance and advice, I also remember going to Gantsi to fetch Selonyana (Jelina Mokgwatlheng who left the group in 2010), Jelina was once part of Tse tilodi group and was a great dancer . When artists like Franco came to Kasane we would ask them if we could perform while they were taking a break and they would allow us and those were the chances we got to prove ourselves.”
According to Kabelo, the best moments of their music career was during the President’s Day competitions when a band scheduled to perform did not turn up. “We were then given a chance and then we got invited to perform on Mokaragana. A guy called David Lebaleo who heard our music and took our cassette to radio stations where it enjoyed airplay. In an effort to improve sales, I would around Botswana marketing and selling our cassettes. Our big break came after our Mokaragana performance as people begun to inquire about us. We landed a gig at Mowana Lodge-African village in Kasane and that is when we really took off, “Mogwe said
Culture Spears continued doing free shows including Independence celebrations at the National stadium. “I had my first live interview with Lesego Kgajwane at the stadium and the reception after Mmadikokwana was amazing. We had challenges with some managers who cheated us but we overcame Xebo Manyeapelo came in around that time and promoted our music in South Africa through Motsweding FM which got us a great following in South Africa.”
Asked about their formula for success Kabelo credits their understanding of the Botswana market, “ We release hit songs because we know the market. We don’t disappoint our fans. The Botswana market is very small and that is why we release every year. We source our lyrics from our daily experiences, our songs motivate and encourage. Culture Spears has managed to maintain fan loyalty because they can relate to us. We interact with different people equally because we have had shows all over Botswana and that shows people that they are equally important. I remember we once performed at Mohembo and people were both happy and they kept saying, “Culture Spears le yone e kgona go tla mo Mohembo,” and we will continue to reach out to more of our fans wherever they are.”
The group is currently working on their 8 track album to be released early April. We would like to keep our fans in suspense and we will not reveal more details until we are sure of everything. It would be an amazing I tell you,” Charma Gal said.
Gilbert ‘PP’ Seagile who once managed Culture Spears, shared that they were a humble lot that was easy to manage. “We worked well because they are very loyal- that is to their management, music and fans. They were always on the up but they have never changed though I think they could be bigger if they had better management. They need brand positioning that will be suitable for the changing times.”