Summing up Soares Bashi Sambalanda Katumbela’s life, I keep coming back to one thought. Veni, vidi, vici – I Came, I Saw, I Conquered! Never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his dreams. Even though today, we somberly hum a disparate melody, Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vicit – We Came, We Saw, God conquered, Katumbela was an illustrious Botswana music promoter and distinguished pioneer who laid all the spadework for today’s music stars and legends alike.
Born in Botswana’s second city and ‘Capital of the North’, Francistown on October 12, 1961, Katumbela was a Motswana, a Jazz Presenter with Duma FM – from 2008 until his untimely demise last week and had over 30 years’ experience in running Jazz clubs, music concerts, events, coordinating music and educational workshop as well as providing entertainment for a number of activities as an esteemed music promoter – his greatest passion.
There’s absolutely not an iota of doubt that Katumbela was Botswana’s very own entertainment legend! Bra Soares or Uncle Soares – as he was affectionately referred to by many, applied his vast experience in the management of Botswana artists and event activities locally and internationally.
Under his flagship company, StreetHorn (Pty) Ltd; a 100% citizen owned Music Promotions, Artist Management Company and Event Management Consultancy established in 1998, Katumbela truly helped shape and mold the local music industry – a quest he lived and died for.
Through his illustrious career, Uncle Soares has had the privilege to work with some of the most prominent Private Companies, Institutions and Government Departments from Botswana, particularly Barclays Bank Botswana, First National Bank, SOS Children’s Villages Botswana, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Metropolitan Botswana, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture amongst others.
“We pride ourselves with being amongst the best music promotions companies in the region based on our wide relationship network with local, African and international musicians and their management,” said Katumbela in one of our many cheerful interviews.
Not wanting to be the one to burst any confident idiot’s bubble, the internationally acclaimed Thato Sikwane alias DJ Fresh or The Big Dawg of Metro FM fame was the first musician to be managed under the stewardship of Katumbela. This was in the early 90s when Streethorn’s founder and Managing Director recognized the talent of one Botswana’s biggest music exports, and began grooming and nurturing his skills.
Until his demise, Katumbela through Streethorn managed the music business affairs of Jazz musicians, Shanti Lo – a relationship which initiated in 2006, Nnunu Ramogotsi from 2013 and Lister Boleseng from 2014. The lovey-dovey affair between Katumbela and all his artists was vividly apparent as their separate careers started to blossom with gradual crescendo.
Katumbela’s role was more of a janitor, helping these artists with the day-to-day general administration, performance bookings, rehearsal schedules, interviews and even further with the perplexing contracts.
In his quest to help local musicians prosper, Katumbela and StreetHorn in January 2016 optimized their services by opening a music store aptly dubbed StreetHorn Music Café (Mmino wa mo gae), Shop 22 in Molapo Crossing Mall, Gaborone – the main objective being to encourage local musicians to publish more albums and for their merchandise to be distributed via the store as a measure to cater for the growing demand by the public for local music.
Despite him continuing to do so much musically in the local front, Katumbela also had his eyes set beyond our shores, precisely internationally with an initiative dubbed StreetHorn’s contemporary international tours, an idea birthed as far back as 2011, inspired by the various music cultural exchange trips to Europe that were coordinated by StreetHorn.
Katumbela never let another man down. He fulfilled every obligation he ever undertook. His word was his bond, and everyone knew it. I never heard him utter a lie, nor intentionally deceive.
His commitment to the local music industry remains unrivaled. I remember vividly when in 2011, Katumbela via StreetHorn took Shanti Lo and Uncle John Selolwane to perform at the Stockholm Pride Festival in Stockholm, Sweden and the following year in 2012, a cultural music Exchange between Botswana and Swedish musicians resulted.
Courtesy of Katumbela’s relentless zeal and devotion, Shanti Lo and John Selolwane collaborated with Swedish musicians at several venues in Stockholm and facilitated music workshop at Kulturama Arts School and SMI (Stockholm Musikpedagogiska Institute). This cultural music exchange was funded by the Swedish Government and supported by Hellsten Hotel. The trip was further extended to Ireland, where Shanti Lo and John Selolwane performed with sundry Irish musicians.
Still basking in the euphoria of his successful international tours, Katumbela in 2013 took Botswana’s Jazz songbird, Nnunu Ramogotsi to Stockholm for yet another resounding collaboration with the Swedish musicians, where the Ramotswa diva performed at the Botswana Embassy Gala dinner on the 30th of September 2013, Hellsten Hotel as well as Stockholm’s Top Jazz Club, Fasching, where she was backed by Emmanuel Gospel Choir and a Swedish band. This trip was funded by Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the Botswana Embassy in Sweden.
Katumbela’s intense passion to enrich the local arts continued in 2014 when StreetHorn toured Sweden and Germany with Botswana’s Afro-Jazz trio made up of Shanti Lo, Kearoma Rantao and Nnunu Ramogotsi fully backed by their Botswana band. The trio performed in Stockholm and Gothernburg at The World Museum before jetting off to Germany where they serenaded Jazz fans in Lich, Waggonhaile and Habitzhem. This particular tour lasted 14 days and it was sponsored by the Ministry of Sports, Youth & Culture, the Botswana Embassy in Sweden and Hellsten Hotel.
“In all these music events, the demand for Botswana music was overwhelming. As a consequence StreetHorn was of the view that future trips to Europe ought to involve a larger entourage of Botswana musicians,” said Katumbela upon returning to Botswana.
Being the sentimental and patriotic character that he was, Katumbela continued in his glorious desire to elevate the Botswana music industry including its sundry artists. In 2015, the “Re Batswana Music Ensemble”- a vibrantly spirited showcase of Traditional, Folk, Afro Jazz and Contemporary Music of Botswana became the biggest group under the coordination of StreetHorn to tour Europe.
The whole team including management was made up of 25 musicians and employees. This Tswana musical odyssey was initially presented in Botswana for the President’s Art and Creative Competition Award Ceremony at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) in July 2015, after which they finalized their preparations to tour Sweden and Switzerland to showcase Botswana music and celebrate the country’s cultural diversity with audiences in these countries.
Katumbela never made an enemy. Not one. While he most surely came across a few people he couldn’t countenance, he solved the problem by simply avoiding them. He always insisted that violence never solved any problem. He never once hit another man in anger.
Katumbela was affectionately loyal too. His faithfulness to the important people in his life could be seen in the way he steadfastly maintained ties with his childhood friends. From the streets of Francistown in the ethnic ghetto where they grew up through the weddings, christenings, holidays, and now wakes and funerals that mark the arc of life, Uncle Soares could always be counted on to be there.
Katumbela was philanthropic too, as over the years he promoted the welfare of others, as seen by his generous donation and positive influences to good causes. Between 2013 and 2014, Uncle Soares consulted for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in developing and coordinating artist and musical talent for cultural groups at Dukwi Refugee Camp.
He also did tour Botswana with Bhudaza and Mr. Magic Diau where they raised funds for the Motswedi Rehabilitation Centre for the disabled children in Mochudi in 2004, raised funds for Anne – Stine School of the disabled in Molepolole, as far back as 1999, coordinated music for the Masiela Trust Fund dinner in Gaborone on September 28, 2007, where he hosted the legendary South African musician Hugh Masekela. Katumbela has also provided entertainment for the SOS – Children’s Villages Botswana fundraising Gala dinners between 2014 and 2015.
Katumbela was never stingy. Though he was a child of the Depression who understood the value of a Pula and the importance of saving, the generosity he expressed with his money matched his generosity of spirit.
Hence its was suiting that yesterday, the Botswana Promotions and Entertainers Association (BEPA) and musicians, Duma FM, government officials, diplomatic quo including members of the public converged in large numbers at the dearly departed legend’s memorial service held at Botswana Craft. Family members, friends, as well as officials from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development spoke solemnly and vividly about Katumbela’s genius journey in cultivating and nurturing the local arts industry.
It was a great privilege for me to have met Uncle Soares. I can recall what a gentle gracious man he was with a warm sincere smile. He was always happy contended man who never wanted much out of life, just simple quite pleasures, sharing his life with Batswana through music promotions, his beloved wife and his children.
Katumbela was a very sociable person he had many friends, he was liked and respected, he was someone you could trust and rely on, someone you could confide in and ask for advice.
“We must die we know, said a character in Shakespeare “tis but the time and drawing days out that men stand upon.”
Katumbela died last week Thursday, I know he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved him. Rest in eternal peace Soares Bashi Sambalanda Katumbela.