Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

Botswana: Comedian, Phongo Proves There's Life After Radijo

Maun man, Onkagetse Ofetotse, aka Phongo says his movie and music career in South Africa continues to soar despite his partying ways with the man who introduced him to the game two years ago.

Phongo came into the limelight through hilarious Tswana comedy series, Radijo, starring as a friend of that food-loving entertainer in the series, Radijo, Radikgang Madiane.

That was two years ago, when Radijo's comedy series literally took the South African and local market by storm with their well-researched Tswana jokes based mainly on popular Tswana humorous stories.

The 26-year-old man from Maun tells Showbiz that his solo comedy, Phongo is alive, released after a series of comedies by Radijo announcing that Phongo is Dead, continues to do well in the market.

"It has since sold well over 35,000 copies both in South Africa, where I am based, and in Botswana," he said in an exclusive interview during one of his errands to Gaborone.

Phongo says his debut solo comedy release was actually an effort to clear the air following a series of film releases by Radijo proclaiming that Phongo is dead. 'After I parting ways with Radijo for business reasons, he released a movie titled, Leso la ga Phongo (Phongo is dead), in Radijo Vol.2. He followed that up with Phitlho ya ga Phongo, Radijo Vol.3

The youngster, who describes himself as a hard worker, says his Phongo is alive did cause Radijo to re-think his strategy. " It was only after I made my movie that Radijo added an episode in which Phongo comes to life," he says.

Phongo's debut movie also happened to have a go at Radijo. In one of the scenes, Phongo and his friend Rahonga visit their mutual mate, Radijo at his shanty home, where they do not find him. "The sign at Radijo's house reads, "Radijo relocated to America" as both characters remain alone for the whole day, stealing the show in what used to be Radijo's home. They even unlock Radijo's hut, possibly to loot the guy.

Interestingly though, Phongo is Alive was released by the same company which introduced Radijo to the South African market, Sunshine Records. But he later left the same company also claiming a raw deal. "Ke jele sengwe (I got a cut), but I did not receive royalties for copies,which were distributed in countries like Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. We are no longer there (Sunshine Records), we quit, we were unhappy," he says.

Phongo claims fans have been calling him in Mozambique requesting him to add Portuguese subtitles into the funny movie.

Phongo describes himself as a survivor who refused to give in to failure even when he failed his Junior Secondary Education. A traditional music dancer by trade, Phongo says he joined Radijo's Letlhomela Cultural Group with a number of his homeboys, for the release of their first comedy, Radijo, which was shot and produced by a local producer, before Radijo licenced it to a South African company under controversial circumstances.

Phongo, thanks to Radijo's connections in South Africa, especially in Pretoria, moved to that country with his fellow dancers and singers in an effort to trade in traditional music, which is fast becoming popular in that country. After falling out with Radijo over money related issues, Phongo says he formed Ditswammung Cultural Troupe with other disgruntled dancers and actors, who included a character known as "Rahonga", and other characters who starred in Radijo's early releases. The group is made up of six Botswana citizens all formerly with Radijo. They include Phongo, Rahonga (Morulaganyi Garebamono), Sakuru (Kikagetse Mombala), Black Dog (Siane Hetu), and the woman who acts as Phongo's wife or Maphongo (Onameditse Baleseng)

It is through this Ditswammung Traditional Troupe that Phongo released his debut comedy last year.

"Phongo is Alive," has changed my life a great deal. Now I have managed to open my own recording studio, I bought a car, and I run a taxi business. I think it has changed a lot of things about me... I'm a famous actor, especially in the North West and Limpopo regions; my movies and music sell well there," he said.

Phongo's latest comedy release, Bad Day in Town, released hardly three months ago, is fused with afro-pop music as the talented actor attempts to take his music and film career to another level.

He has also released the music separately on a CD performed by Phongo & Maromente Crew. The CD is mostly wedding songs.

According to Phongo his latest DVD release sold 6000 copies in its first two weeks in South Africa, while 1000 DVDs were sold cash in Botswana during the same time.

Phongo says he distributes his own products through a distribution arm, Ketantshang Music Production.

"It has been a good story worth telling so far, since I moved to South Africa in 2006 with Radijo, specifically to settle there and work with Sunshine Records, although I'm no longer with the company.

Meanwhile Phongo has announced he is busy shooting the second installation of his Phongo is Alive, which will be on DVD by end of this month. The movie is being short at a location in Maun, his hometown.

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