By Tilo ngwana Rashaka
From a far distance, things seemed great. They painted a picture of a happy family. No one could have guessed that the boat was no longer sailing smoothly until one of the pioneers of the popular African traditional group, Culture Spears, decided to pack her bags and walk away- and then SPILL THE BEANS!
Following the success of their second album, Kulenyane, that saw the group winning numerous awards and even performing at high-profiled government and private functions both locally and internationally, Culture Spears was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
The group also built its own recording studio, Kulenyane studios, named after their second traditional project reportedly the leading Culture Spears project in terms of sales. The studio is headquartered in Culture Spears’ mansion right in the heart of Gaborone.
The second project of E ke Ntolo, Culture Spears‘ sister project, led by charismatic Magdeline Mogwe, formerly Lesolebe, recorded a major success. The hit Chika became the festive season anthem while dominating Botswana’s airwaves and topping the charts.
Perfect! Someone would have thought. It seems things are doing great for Culture Spears. While the fans and supporters are happy and enjoying the quality service they enjoy from the group, one of the popular and most loved dancers was struggling to come to term with the remuneration she received from the group.
Jelina Mokgwatlheng from Ghanzi, affectionately known as Selonyana and Rebabedi to many of her fans decided to part ways with the group around March 2010. She claimed that the reason for her departure from the group was because she was “not happy at all because I have worked with this group for so many years and we have been making a lot of money through festivals, but still the money that we are paid is peanuts. Legale Modimo o teng,” Jelinah was quoted in the media saying.
However, the group’s heavyweight, Kabelo Mogwe, poured a cold water on Mokgwathleng’s allegations and said that there was no animosity between the two parties at the time of her departure from the group.
“There was no problem at all, there was no conflict as far was we know. In fact when Jelina indicated that she wanted to quit, we called our elders who interviewed her in the presence of our lawyer and everyone understood her reasons as health problems. However, Jelina also assured us that if her health improved, she would be ready to return to the fold,” Mogwe told the media.
Return to the fold: Jelinah was later quoted in one of the newspapers saying she will never go back to Culture Spears and thus far she has stuck by her tough choice. In stead, Jelinah took her valuable and most loved service to insignificant Shumba Ratshekga who is no match to her former group.
To date, Jelinah has disappeared from the limelight while Culture Spears continues to produce great music even though it becomes noticeable that she has left a huge gap in the group that cannot be closed by anyone.
Around 2010 and 2011, rumours started doing the round that Culture Spears is considering quitting traditional music amidst the success of E ke Ntolo. Of course that was allegation Kabelo Mogwe dismissed as a blatant lie.
In 2011, Culture Spears released their fourth project, Kuweletsane. But today, tongues started wagging again that the group no longer value traditional music. The group has released two E ke Ntolo projects in two consecutives years while Culture Spears was last released in 2011. Culture Spears has 4 albums while E ke ntolo has 5.
Has Jelinah’s departure affected the group in any way?
- Jelinah’s departure from the group brought about dancers instability, from female dancers side.
- The absence of her distinct dance moves is a notable gap.
- It is very notable Lydia Oile misses Jelinah on stage. The collaboration between the two as Magdeline sings was and still is unbeatable, and I doubt Culture Spears will ever have that kind of a proper dancer-collaboration again.
- Nonetheless, Culture Spear’s dance moves are the best from all the directions; well organized and well choreographed, no doubt and question about that.
First published on: 24 March 2013
First edited on: 16 November 2013