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World Music Matters

Africa is so wealthy, says Elemotho, winner of RFI/France 24 Discoveries music award

Audio 10:05

Winner of this year’s RFI-France 24 Discoveries music award, Namibian singer-songwriter and guitarist Elemotho GR Mosimane joins the ranks of former laureates Tiken Jah Fakoly from Cote d’Ivoire, Mali's Amadou and Mariam and Didier Awadi of Senegal. He’s no newcomer to music, and is shortly to release his third album. He talks to RFI about his native land and numerous future projects.


Elemotho’s music mixes the sounds of his native land with anglo-saxon inspired folk.
While he says he’s flattered at the idea of being an ambassador for Namibia, he prefers not to define his music.

It draws on the “rhythms of the Kalahari… melodies of meditation.. and messages for modern times”, he says.

“We have 12 ethnic groups in Namibia. The music is very varied. I believe that we just tell stories and memories. Inspiration comes to us.”

Many of these stories were passed on by his grandmother on the farm in east Kalahari where he grew up listening to traditional music and choirs before joining a band at university.

His native Namibia provides much of the inspiration despite or because it’s a small country with an interesting history, where animals outnumber its roughly two million inhabitants.

“I just have a love of this land,” he says, “its beauty, its silence, the endless skies, amazing endless horizons and the stars. For me that is poetry in itself, I can never truly describe what Namibia means to me.”

But you can feel his attachment, notably in the song Kgala! Namib, from his 2003 debut album The system is a joke.

This album also allowed Elemotho to express himself as a self-styled musical activist.

Growing up under apartheid forged a certain political consciousness, he says.

“I grew up as a child of apartheid, And so politics is a part of me I guess, I carry it on my sleeve, as I carry the questions of life.”

The album’s title track is right out of the acoustic guitar protest song tradition.

The system is a joke is my take on capitalism and the modern world - the selling of water, the buying of everything and how, for example, Africa is so wealthy and still is perceived by the world as this little poor continent. Technology has not saved the day, religion has not saved the day. So what is happening here? The system is a joke for me.”

The music system has been kinder, or at least Elemotho has worked it to his advantage through a mixture of hard work, patience and lucky encounters.

“I think my love of music has always driven me, and knowing the right people and right energies [to be able] to say “I’d like to make beautiful music”. Hopefully it’s possible if you record it well.”

And that means taking your time.

Elemotho recorded The system is a joke in 2003, Human in 2008 and is to bring out his third album Ke Nako this December.

As part of the RFI-France24 Discoveries award, the Institut Français is sponsoring a huge tour of some 20 African countries in the spring of 2013.

Several dates in Paris should follow.

Then there’s the record deal with a UK based company who’re making a compilation of his 3 albums.

And a tour of India, Nepal and Indonesia in September 2013.

“It’s crazy, just me and my wife here trying to get all this done. But it’s what we’ve always wished for, it’s so good.”

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