Elemotho: Beautiful World

August 14, 2017

Kalahari Dreamin’

Listening Post 111. Elemotho’s Beautiful World is a jewel with facets that reflect topographical and human landscapes. The Namibian singer-composer traces his songwriting to childhood memories of storytelling around campfires in the Kalahari Desert and uses forthright lyrics to turn ignorance toward understanding, loss toward hope and to find beauty in unexpected places. Singing traditional and new works in English, Setswana and other Namibian languages, he works with an ensemble drawn from four continents, a broad musical palette and instruments ranging from guitar, violin and accordion to mbira (thumb piano), conga and dun-dun drum. Elemotho grew up under apartheid (Namibia was ruled by South Africa until 1990), and his anthem Black Man addresses the African condition, not by focusing on oppressors but by urging people to take control of their fate—the Setswana refrain “We are lost,” a lyrical signpost on the path to wisdom (video 1). The title track is an ode to simple pleasures like love, laughter and music; “You have eyes, you have a mind, you have hands, you have it all,” says the chorus (video 2). Sediegi (Don’t Get Sidetracked) is a folk version of a funeral song, carrying the mantra, “A life lived without a dream is like a stream without water;” it also includes the refrain “They will remain, crying, so come on time,” chanted in Damara-Nama, one of southern Africa’s click languages (video 3). The migration song Kuruman, performed entirely in Setswana with the Makgona Ngwai Cultural Group Choir, suggests a pre-desert landscape: “We have come from far/We crossed the dangers and forests of the Kalahari” (video 4). Human activity can destroy or enrich the physical landscape. Inspired by long-ago campfires and projecting the warm texture of his voice, Elemotho puts his music on the side of creation. (ARC Music)







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