‘Forgive me father’
Throw Back with Eric Ramco
There are times when I find myself imagining what it would be like if there was a church of music. A place where people like me, baptized in the waters of song, would congregate to worship the god of music. And, I always see myself in a scene where I go behind a curtain, sit on a stool and utter the following words, “Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been six years since my last album and in that time I’ve not been in a recording studio,” and the man behind the lattice says to me “ But why my Son?”: With tears rolling down my cheeks, I go on to tell him that the very song I’ve been entrusted with has not loved me back. The people I’ve been sent to help have rejected me.
“They bayed for my blood Father. So I ran and never came back home for four years. I see no point in carrying on,” and the man says “ But you are stronger than that my Son. Have you forgotten that even Christ was also rejected by his own people? And that it was his own people that killed him? You have to go back. There are those that still need you: the children need you and you cannot make them atone for the sins of their fathers “. Then I tell him, “But I’m not Christ Father. I am not the Son of God and I don’t want to die “. “We are all God’s children my son, and none of us can escape our destiny,” would say the man. Then he’d say short prayer for me and send me on my way.
One of these fine days I am going to start making music again and I am very aware that the competition out there is just too tight. People are doing great things, so when I begin producing I have to make sure that my music is up there with the best.
It has to sound better than Tlhalefang Charles’ photography. Tlhalefang has to hear my music and wonder if he needs a new camera and also begin to doubt his choice of angles and lighting. My music has to be brighter than these nice suits that former Ramco affiliates Thobo Ruxion Kerekang and Donald Dondada Nnoto keep flaunting on social media under the name Keno Custom Suits. They have to hear that music and call an urgent meeting of their entire team where they will revisit their patterns, colors, fabrics and so forth.
This new music will be fast, very fast, and by fast I am not referring to the tempo: It has nothing to do with the speed of sales either, although the latter would be very much welcome. It just needs to be fast. Karabo Sibanda has to listen to this music and fear it. Fear it enough to want to beat it. It has to make him rethink his time. His speed. His tactics: But the music will also fear him, out of respect. So if it can chase him enough to collect that gold medal he is storing next door in 2020, the music itself must also find itself as a contender in the annual music ‘Olympics’ – the Grammy Awards in 2020. It must win.
Then the two of them, Sibanda and the music can meet back home to a hero’s welcome, where they will both don Keno Custom Suits and be photographed by Tlhalefang Charles with his new camera. That is the music I want to make.
This may not sound like a throwback but it is. It is about where I have been, both emotionally and spiritually and where I want to be next.
I have produced music under the rule of three presidents of this republic and have never met or been acknowledged by a single one of them: or be given face time by any minister in charge of the arts.
But during that time, I have produced and marketed award winning artists. I have kicked down doors for Batswana artists to go through.
I have pioneered and commercialized a genre known as Mmino wa Setswana, took it to the world without any kind of funding or sponsorship and won a Kora award for Best African Traditional Group at the 2003 event with Machesa Traditional Group. It is still the only Kora award ever won by a Botswana group or artist despite several attempts by many of my countrymen in the last thirteen years.
One Sunday evening at Eros Jazz Club in Tlokweng, when Israel was still running the place, someone I had never met and whose face I cannot recall said to me “They don’t understand you Eric. They are not sure where you stand, they will never help you,” and I said to him “But I don’t even vote. I have never voted and what does music have to do with politics?” He gave me no answer because just as he was about to, Hugh Masekela’s “Motlalepula” came blaring on the speakers and he quickly went back into the crowd to dance with a lovely big-bosomed lady. I never saw him again. Shortly after that the police walked in to close the place for the night, those words have haunted me to this day.
So, when the man behind the lattice says I must go back, that there are still people to help, people to save, I begin to wonder if I can still have the strength to do that. But as he says, we are all God’s children and ours is a living God. He is stronger than even the god of music. Mightier than the gods of this world and he imparts that strength upon us.