… and If Franco is looking to stage a show featuring only local artists, Kast might want to be in the line-up
KGOSI GASEBALWE SERETSE
Trending lately on social media is Frank ‘Franco’ Lesokwane’s campaign to fill up the National Stadium in Gaborone. Love him or hate him, Franco is undoubtedly one of Botswana’s leading artists, having amassed a remarkable following over the years.
After the announcement that he was aiming to fill up the stadium, there were reports that another artist, Tshepiso Molapisi aka Kast, had scorned his efforts and suggested that Franco was stealing his Tlatsa Lebala concept. Whether this is valid or is mere hot air is an issue for another day, the bottom line is that it is commendable that both artists have taken the initiative to make Batswana appreciate local talent.
Everyone knows the struggles that Kast had to go through to finally fill up the stadium. And when he did, there was euphoria throughout the city of Gaborone. While some scorned and accused him of being a copycat, it was brave of him to take the initiative. Yes, it is possible that he might have borrowed the concept from Cassper Nyovest from neighbouring South Africa but only a brave artist could attempt to fill up the National Stadium. Before Kast, only national events like Independence Day celebrations, BDF Day and international football games could fill up the stadium. Football teams with big followings also drew sizeable crowds.
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, big international acts like UB40 and The Commodores filled up the National Stadium, although one of the reasons for their success was that they attracted revellers from countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe that were then under international economic sanctions and sporting and cultural boycotts because of their racist white minority regimes. Revellers across the colour bar came from these countries to add to the massive throngs of Batswana to fill up the national Stadium.
It is possible that before Kast and Franco no local artist has attempted to fill up the stadium because of the prohibitive charges and the relatively poor support for local acts. A show in Botswana with over 5 000 people is considered a success and it is safe to assume that for a local show to get about 10 000 people, it is considered a huge success. No less than 20 000 fans are needed for an artist to fill up the stadium.
When Kast first attempted this, naysayers scoffed at him and potential sponsors spurned him. Nevertheless, the determined artist went ahead and his second attempt in 2017 was a huge success, although he literally had to walk an extra mile to achieve that. To win Batswana over, Kast had to walk 1 000 kilometres promoting his event in advance and managed to win the sympathy of Batswana. Soon after, everyone wanted to associate with the Tlatsa Lebala ‘movement,’ and even those who had derided him posed for pictures with the indefatigable muso for posting on social media. The artist managed to get the necessary backing for the show whose line-up consisted only of local artists. Sadly, Kast’s success was short-lived as his next campaign in 2018 was a dismal failure.
With Franco’s Soul Fill Up now, local music lovers are gearing up to celebrate local talent again and fill up the stadium. It is difficult to prognosticate the level of Franco’s success at this stage, but his popularity across Botswana is in no doubt. Infact, at the peak of his career under 10 years ago, even the elderly loved his music. Alongside the likes of Alfred ‘Alfredo Mo’ Mosinamanegape and Nata Capricorn, Franco has been hailed as a pioneer of the kwasa-kwasa genre in Botswana. With many of his followers already posting online about how they are going to support the event, it looks like Batswana are ready for yet another fill up stadium event.
In the meantime, it is not yet clear whether there is real ‘beef’ between Kast and Franco and it can only hoped that the so-called beef is only a marketing ploy. If Franco is looking to stage a show featuring local artists only, Kast might want to be in the line-up. This would most certainly give him a platform to promote himself as an artist and he can also learn something from the older and more experienced artist. On the other hand, for Franco to stage a good show, he needs to engage artists from different genres. Although some die-hard Franco fans believe that he does not need any other artist to support the event, it might not be easy for him to host a one-man show at the National Stadium.
Enterprising artists like Franco and Kast need to be supported so as to take the local music industry to another level. There is no doubt that if the “Soul Fill Up” event is a success, Franco will be laughing all the way to the bank. We most certainly need another Tlatsa Lebala event to resuscitate the local entertainment industry.