Arguably touted as the grandest musical gathering in Botswana, the annual Hamptons Jazz Festival will take place on the 23rd and 24th of March 2018 headlined by Trinidadian-born British recording artist, Billy Ocean who had a string of R&B international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s.
While the annual festivity did not take place this year, despite its unwavering popularity, Hamptons Promoters led by the duo of Debbie Smith and Starr Ngwenya had earlier this year told members of the media that either Lionel Richie, UB40 or Jill Scott may headline the 2018 Jazz music festival.
All Hamptonettes (Hamptons Jazz Festival loyalists) will agree that since 2014, the get-together 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.
— Billy Ocean (@MrWongo) October 20, 2017
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 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.
#BotswanaUnplugged this week caught up with one of the festival’s pioneers, Debbie Smith to find out what’s up her sleeve with regards to the 2018 Hamptons Jazz festival…
When exactly is the next Hamptons Jazz Festival?
Even though the 5th Annual Hamptons Jazz Festival is on the books and the event is five months away, the spirit of the weekend endures. What has become an annual rite and celebration of music, culture, and maybe above, all the spirit Gaborone, is a bucket list experience that you can repeat yearly. The Hamptons now in its 5th year will take place on the 23 & 24th of March 2018.
We have not released info on the theme for the 23rd as yet, but we will do so at the end next month (November). The 24th March 2018 is the anticipated 5th Annual Hamptons Jazz Festival. As it’s a big celebration, it is headlined by Billy Ocean. Music to the Hamptonettes’ ears indeed. It’s kind of like an ultra-endurance event for their ears indeed. I’ve seen performances by Billy Ocean across the pond, performances that ignited the audience. Watching this in our own country would be awesome. What a great time to be alive and living in Gaborone.
How many locals acts have been confirmed so far, how many are you expecting at the final show?
Two so far, same as the internationals. We are expecting 10 local performers, a bit more than the international acts. The local line-up will be headlined by Thabang Garogwe, who makes a valiant effort to swallow the entire Hamptons affair with his forceful energy. The tidal wave of sound is awe-inspiring and overwhelming. In between bits of overblown distortion and atmospheric passages, Socca Moruakgomo is also expected to deliver pulse-raising jazz beats and bouts of jaw-dropping trumpet tones. It will be amazing to see our locals getting the Hamptonettes’ to eat from their ingenious musical palms.
And what about ticket sales?
Ticket sales start on the 27th October – online, e-wallet, Orange Money and MyZaka. As usual, we will accept e-wallets and lay byes. These are the two means of payments that have become Hamptons’ flagship. We can reveal that our tickets have been printed abroad and we have also bought our own ticketing software to tighten on ticket security and touting.
I can reveal that these tickets have a retro design feel to them in-line with the good old golden eras that Hamptons tries to re-live. Early bird tickets also include a choice of a fedora hat or a Hamptons T-shirt. Fans buying these are encouraged to hurry as they are limited.
Where will the show take place?
At Duma FM Grounds – Home of the Hamptons. We are yet to confirm where the 23rd show will be held. The 24th is curtained fully confirmed for Duma FM Grounds. We all know that we had logistics issues in February 2016. We then perfected these during our October 2016 event and Hamptonettes were very impressed. We skipped a year to prepare and here we are even more organised and readier than before.
Who and which international acts have been confirmed so far?
Billy Ocean and Salif Keita. The second announcement will come on 30/11/17. We are expecting at least seven international acts to perform alongside at least 10 local acts.
The last festivity apparently recorded an unprecedented 13, 000 revellers, is this the true figure, and if so, what venue has been set for the upcoming festival, what measures have been put in place to make sure issues of 2016 don’t repeat?
2016 event numbers were too much for Duma FM Grounds. We have significantly reduced from 12 000 to 8 000 for safety reasons, logistics to match with crowd numbers, and crowd control, fans’ comfort and that Hamptonettes have a proper Hamptons experience in style.
We have recruited 12 managers all with different speciality areas who are currently at work 24/7 and will make sure all goes well come 2018.
This year, we see local promoters upping the ante, by bringing international acts we never knew will ever set foot in our land, is this a sustainable feat? Is this where the Botswana music industry promotions should be headed?
One of our objectives has always been to attract both international artists and fans, so that we promote our country through music tourism. International promotions is not for the faint-hearted as it comes with all sorts of problems especially on funds. Billy Ocean charges in Pound Sterling (GBP) and without sponsors upfront it can be a challenge. The fans also choose what they want so it’s great that promoters are giving them a choice of internationals and locals too.
What are you busy with now in as far as Hamptons Jazz Festival 2018 is concerned?
I’m busy with mobilization of merchandise which some of it has already arrived in Gaborone and some of it is being produced in Gabz too. I’m also working on all the international acts’ contracts so as to make sure all is in place including the legality permit paperwork. My partner in crime, Starr Ngwenya is busy with the new ticketing software and tickets. We’ve had to do this abroad as we couldn’t find software we needed in Botswana. So far so good.
The ground team are frantically busy with early bird ticket sales activations as the first week is the busiest for us. Our ground managers, Daphney Makabe and David Letshwiti are busy now.
Have you smoked the peace pipe with members of the media who were baying for your blood two years ago, having threatened to boycott any Hamptons Jazz show?
We had our meeting in April 2017 and this went very well, we apologised indeed. Yes, we smoked the peace pipe and we are working harmoniously together as one. We are very thankful to all media houses that have already started helping us with writing and publishing astounding articles. Thank you!