Botswana: COVID-19 - How Botswana Artists Are Making Money in Lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has hit hard on all sectors of Botswana. But for artists, social media has become the new way to connect with fans and make money.

The music industry, like other sectors in Botswana, has been affected by coronavirus pandemic. Artists are now using social media platforms to reach out to wider audiences.

With 35 confirmed cases and one death, authorities in Botswana eased a seven-day lockdown to enable businesses and cross-border trade to thrive. But many sectors, particularly the business community, have yet to catch up.

For musicians, the only way they can remain afloat is by using social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to reach out to their fans and stay relevant.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Frankilne Moyo performed his music and sold his CDs on the streets of the capital Gaborone. But because of social distancing and other hygiene protocols, he can't do that anymore.

"The coming of COVID-19, of course, froze that part of my career that I love most in terms of music," he told DW. "It (COVID-19) affected me financially, and it was quite frustrating. But with every challenge, you know one has to adapt and look for a solution."

To publicize his music on social media platforms, Frankline also set up methods of digital payments for his clients.

"I decided to use platforms that are available like WhatsApp and Facebook to upload my music for my friends in Botswana and across the world," he said. "I thank God for that."

Raising awareness

Other artists, like Tomeletso Sereetsi, a member of the Sereetsi and the Natives group, are also using digital platforms for the first time.

"It helps us, especially that a lot more shows are happening right now online. I will be doing one with an organization that is based in France," Tomeletso told DW. "It is an absolute honor for me to take part in an online Africa festival for all artists from all over Africa and the diaspora."

Sereetsi, known for mixing contemporary folklore with an undertone of Botswana's popular four-string guitar, has done online performances to raise money for the COVID-19 relief fund.

"It is also interactive because you get to see the people who are following you live," he said, "sometimes 500 people are watching you live and sending their requests."

The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped Sereetsi's from performing his music to a live audience because he is doing it now online, where he hopes to grow a large following.

No hard feelings

Botswana artists may have taken to online platforms and digital media to distribute and share their art. Still, music promoters like Thapelo Fish Pabalinga, founder of the Gaborone International Music and Culture (GIMC) is unperturbed as he believes online events can never replace outdoor live shows.

"For those that are doing online events, big ups to them. They have got to do them, and they pretty much have no choice under the current situation of coronavirus pandemic," Pabalinga told DW.

"But the new normal as everybody calls it, it is still untested, and nobody knows what it looks like, I generally see it as a point of departure, online festivals can never replace outdoor live events."

Even though Pabalinga still has confidence that outdoor events will slowly pick up, he could not take the negative impact lightly the pandemic has had on his business.

"We had to cancel shows, and we had already paid lots of performance fees. In terms of financial losses, there is quite a bit, no doubt about it."

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