Women of Jazz diversify into clothing business

COVID-19 inspires the songbirds to realise their childhood dreams of owning casual wear brands. Kgarebe, Che’ri and Jazzing Up are the buzz of fashionistas


With the music industry going through a period of uncertainty where it is forced to adapt to unprecedented changes due to COVID-19, Botswana’s leading women of jazz are diversifying their product offerings by going into the clothing industry, Time Out has established.

Kearoma Rantao, Punah Gabasiane-Molale, and Nono Siile have introduced clothing brands that are the buzz of the local market and seem poised to take over.

This is not to say the songbirds are quitting their music side. Not at all. It’s about maximizing earnings through different revenue streams for these artists to protect themselves against unanticipated risks that have come with the unprecedented pandemic.

Nono Siile of “Borre” fame has a T-shit brand called “Kgarebe,” which is the title of her first album in 2007. In her words, Kgarebe is a woman who takes good care of herself and doesn’t give up despite the different curve balls that life keeps throwing her way. She is currently working on a T-shirt brand for men to be called “Lekau” before expanding her product line to bucket hats, leggings, caps and flip-flops.

“During these hard times, it is important to increase one’s revenue streams by pushing one’s own brand,” Nono coos. “I have always had the idea of pursing this dream of mine. It’s only that I was busy with making my four music albums.”

Another jazz songbird, Kearoma Rantao, is the proud owner of Che`ri, her clothing brand that was inspired by love for herself and the beautiful women around her. Rantao grew up in Lobatse where “Che`ri” was street lingo to refer to a good looking woman. Three months into her clothing venture, she says men are already suggesting the “Autie” version.

In her own words: “For years, I have had many ideas that I shelved for the future, including my dreams and aspirations when I was a little girl. But I got so immersed in music and its lifestyle that all the other plans got overshadowed and were almost forgotten. It was not until last year when COVID-19 happened that I woke up one day and remembered that I had things to do other than music. I reached into my archives and hauled out Che`ri and we have had orders from the first day to date.”

The First Lady of Jazz, Punah Gabasiane-Molale, has a clothing brand called “Jazzing Up,” which was derived from the name of her latest album. The artist was inspired to diversify her product offering after COVID-19 shut down the performing arts. She started selling branded T-shirts, masks, and T-shirt dresses and the merchandise is receiving rave reviews from its target market.

“It is now the eleventh month with no source of income for us as artists, so it is important to diversify,” Punah says. “In addition, after receiving my share of the Ministry of Youth, Youth and Culture grant from the COVID-19 Relief Fund, I went and bought chicken layers and I am selling eggs to keep myself busy and my family fed.”