There are several English quotes that best describe Debbie Smith, the pioneer of the annual music festivity dubbed Hamptons Jazz Festival slated for Saturday, 24th March at Duma FM Grounds headlined by Billy Ocean, Salif Keita, Amanda Black, Bhudaza, Zahara, Nathi and Amanda. For instance, she’s a typical “Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, Oh crap she’s up!”
“She’s also a strong cup of Black coffee in a world that is drunk on the cheap wine of shallow ‘pessimism’,” – “A woman who knows what she brings to the table and is not afraid to eat alone!”
In typical Setswana sarcasm, she can be described as Kedibonye!
All the above sentiments vividly describe Debbie’s journey as a music promoter in Botswana – a challenging aptitude which often reeks the key male sex hormone, Testosterone. She’s been tried, tested and at the end of it all she has brazenly rose clutching the Lion’s mane in her soft hands, inadvertently humbling her knockers unruffled.
All Hamptonettes (Hamptons Jazz Festival loyalists) will agree that since 2014, Debbie’s brainchild has firmly implanted itself into Botswana’s collective psyche as an emotional and spiritual necessity every year. The affair has also become an important event on the world jazz calendar.
Smith recalls how in November 2013, together with Star Ngwenya both stood on the brink of a special moment. However, a few days before their first International Jazz Festival in 2014, they appeared to be on a brink of disaster.
Ticket sales were painfully low and some of the artists’ contracts got higgledy-piggledy. Then followed artists’ disputes coupled with Spartan obliteration by members of the press. But after years of disappointment and losing around P1.6 million in the inaugural show, the Hamptonettes just could not believe that this festival would actually get off the ground and keep coming back several years later.
And when some of the world’s giants of jazz set foot on Botswana shores in March, 15 2014, the tide started to turn. Audience support also swelled and a special moment was truly born. This year, the festival, now on its 5th instalment, albeit having skipped 2017, will again showcase a medley of Botswana musicians as well as artists from the European and African continent.
Debbie is an all hard-working professionalism. She strikes a variety of poses-laughing, sultry, cheeky – with only the slightest or little prompting from the photographer. She describes herself as a laid-back and long-tempered Motswana woman who hails from Ramotswa village in the South-East District. She’s also a little bit of a wild child yet she admits she’s also humble, generous and very warm. Her preface is straight-forward and laden with epigram; “I was born in Zimbabwe, matured in Ramotswa and extra-matured in the United Kingdom (UK)”.
Smith plus two other associates; Daphne Makabe and Star Ngwenya are the ingenious brains behind Botswana’s grandest gathering dubbed Hamptons Jazz Festival.
Love or hate her, there’s no stopping Debbie’s star from continuing to rise and shine. The resilient Forensic Nurse cum music Promoter is definitely going places. Controversies continue to dog Debbie, and the promoter known for Botswana’s grandest gathering, The Hamptons Jazz festival says it’s hard for her to understand why she’s always at the receiving end.
“I don’t go out of the way to create controversies, I know some people are known to pay their publicist money to create a controversy, but I don’t know why this happens to me,” Smith told #BotswanaUnplugged back in 2016 when everybody including the media ganged up against her and her brand following a tirade of accusations which resulted from her show, which had attracted a whopping estimated 11, 000 revellers.
Since launching her brand back in 2014, Debbie has never really had it easy but her resilience and passion for growing Botswana music beyond our shores saw her persevere against all odds. Although she kissed and made up with the local media who had boycotted all Hamptons activities until Debbie apologized, a few distressing issues still persist to dog the nonchalant music promoter.
Just recently, media reports were awash that Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) had allegedly and knowingly scheduled to host American superstar and heartthrob, Seal during their ‘Of basket and Song’ extravaganza, which was scheduled for March 10 at the University of Botswana (UB) stadium, two weeks apart from Debbie’s show on March 24th. Those in the know averred that the show which was later postponed by BTO was critically tipped to disrupt the Hamptons Jazz Festival.
Whilst the dust was still settling regarding the BTO/Hamptons saga, another snag hit the Hamptons camp, and this time around the country’s By-Law Department had allegedly threatened to pull the plug on extending the show’s hours until sunrise. Those in the know have since attributed this hitch to the residents of Gaborone North – a vicinity where the Hamptons Jazz Festival takes place, as they were allegedly up in arms citing noise pollution and disturbances in their area.
“I was truly looking forward to seeing Seal in our soil. I was never really bothered by the BTO show as I was of the view that it was going to grow our local music. Any international superstar is really welcome to come to our shores. Our show will go on as planned and we are happy to report that everything is well on track despite a few problems here and there,” said Debbie at a press conference held at Avani Gaborone Resort and Casino yesterday (Wednesday).
Updating members of the media this week, Debbie noted that plans for this year’s show are already at an advanced stage, citing that early bird tickets were already sold out, international and local artists have already been paid full amounts and that everything is well on track.
“We are happy to receive a 5 year sponsorship from SA Express. The show is going ahead as planned. We are still in talks with all concerned residents of Gaborone North regarding how best we can work together harmoniously. There’s ample parking space too to avoid the previous show’s congestion. Furthermore, we are thrilled about our partnership with Avani who will be providing accommodation for all our international artists as well as catering for our VIP guests at the event,” said Debbie.
Estimated to have cost a whopping P4.5 million, this year’s Hamptons Jazz Festival will also feature Nnunu Ramogotsi, Socca Moruakgomo, ATI, Thato Jessica, Shanti-Lo, Thabang Garogwe, Ndingo Johwa, DJ Jazzy Pete, and DJ Bush and will be hosted by Luzboy, Resego Motlhokathari and Zenzele Hirschfeld.
Tickets are on sale for P899 couple, normal P599 while VVIP costs P3500.
As you party down a storm come March 24th at Duma FM Grounds, just have this quote in mind, “She has fought many wars, most internal. The ones that you battle alone, for this, she is remarkable. She is a survivor,” – Nikki Rowe.