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In the spotlight: Elemotho – storytelling through song

Avatar of inke inke 18. September 2017 - Culture

Elemotho - firmly embedded in African soil. (Photo: Elemotho)

Elemotho (aka Ele Motho Gaalelekwe Richardo Mosimane), the Namibian singer-songwriter, is a contemporary storyteller, weaving his global understanding into his lyrics, while keeping his heart firmly embedded in African soil.

There’s a deep and earthy African element in Elemotho’s songs, stemming from his experiences growing up on a farm under the vast blue skies and in the endless landscapes of the Omaheke. His days were shaped by the stories his grandmother told around the fire, the song and dance of the Batswana, and the tunes from the radio.

Later on, at school in Windhoek, he would use his creative talents to write and draw, and would trade sketches with his friends in the school hostel for extra slices of bread. But, it was only at university that he discovered his natural rhythm. His potential as a singer was born when one day he started singing spontaneously to the chorus at a friend’s band practice. He was invited to return – and did. The year was 1996 and he started singing cover versions and studying the guitar, inspired by performers like Hugh Masekela and Bob Marley. Influenced by a diverse variety of genres from the clapping rhythms of the San and the chanting and response of Otjiherero spiritual songs to jazz, reggae, rock and kwaito, he and his band ‘Tcoqma’ began to write their own original songs, striving to convey the sound of an independent Namibia. Their aim was to acknowledge the heritage of various indigenous groups, the songs of their ancestors and the oral traditions, while finding the voice of the new country.

After graduating from UNAM with majors in African philosophy and psychology, it was time for the young Elemotho to spread his wings. He took his guitar and went travelling abroad. This was the beginning of a life of travelling the world where he had a chance to dip into many new cultures and gain a sense of the universal human condition. Yet, with all his experiences and his greater global perspective, he continued – and continues -  to sing in the Namibian languages (as well as English), paying homage to his homeland. As expressed in one of his earlier songs: ‘This land of wide open spaces, so many beautiful faces – Namibia.’ ‘Be proud of your roots.’

There’s always more to Elemotho’s music than just the entertaining and lively melodies; a stream of messages flows through his songs. As he says: ‘Storytelling around the fire is what I grew up with, so when I realised I was tired of performing other people’s music I wanted to create something that could make you dance as well as listen, smile as well as cry, find peace as well as wisdom.’

In 2003, he released his first album ‘The system is a joke’, where he questioned our conditioning and the world of money, where there is no place for wisdom or folklore. He embraced the human condition in his second album ‘Human’ in 2008.  His third album ‘Ke Nako’ (It’s Time), released in 2012, was one he generously shared with the people of Africa when he travelled extensively on the continent after being awarded the RFI-France 24 Prix Découvertes award. These days, married and with two children, Elemotho realises that no matter what, love is always the answer. And, love is a theme that runs through his newly released album ‘It is a beautiful world’. In his words: “Beautiful World is a soundtrack of positivity in a world that is increasingly moving towards negativity.” 

His hope and optimism shine through his music as does his love and zest for life.    

Ron Swilling

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