Tswa – all about living art

Bulawayo poet, filmmaker, music producer Tswarelo Mothobe — popularly known as Tswa — has distinguished himself as a versatile artist. The producer, who is also the managing director at 10th District, has worked with Nobuntu, Jeys Marabini and Black Umfolosi among several other musicians. In a wide-ranging interview with NewsDay Life & Style reporter Sharon Sibindi (ND), Tswa (TM) said he had not yet even scratched the surface. Below are the excerpts.

By Sharon Sibindi

ND: How did you learn the ropes in the arts industry?

TM: I am self-taught in everything — filmmaking, poetry, music production, arts events management. Being a creative person, I was always going to end up in the arts. To think art is what they steered me away from when I was a child and turned me towards academics, it’s amazing.

ND: Can you share with us your music production journey?

TM: I started off in the hip-hop and Kwaito genres back in the early 2000s. But that didn’t grow very much as my true passions. Then poetry, film and writing sort of took over and consumed me.

ND: What would you say have been the exciting moments in your career?

TM: When we started what was Bulawayo’s first poetry slams, Mlom’Wakho Poetry Sessions, we had to expand. And in this regard, it meant first going to Harare. There was a huge transport problem in the country back then and some of us had formal jobs. We would get on a train on Friday night, arrive in Harare on Saturday morning, perform at the House of Hunger Poetry Slam in the afternoon, get back on a train in the night and we’d be back in Bulawayo on Sunday. This is how we made our mark in Harare, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Polokwane and Botswana.

ND: And when it comes to producing music, what have been your experiences so far?

TM: As 10th District Music, we have worked and partnered with a few artistes as producers. We intend to grow beyond where we are, but all at the speed of life. We have worked with Nobuntu, Stango and Nongoma, Tshwalabenyoni, Victoria Falls Ubuntu Bomuntu as well as Black Umfolosi and Jeys Marabini.

ND: Can you give us an insight into 10th District Music and how it operates?

TM: When you say producer, you would be referring to my role at 10th District Music. The idea I suppose is acknowledging first the team, which in this regard is my partner, Ramadu, and myself. Ramadu is really the genius behind everything. But surviving means staying true to yourself and for us, it has always been with the sort of music we work with. We can’t claim to know it all but the little we know we focus on and put our all into it.

ND: What has enabled you to survive this long?

TM: I think for me art and creativity is all I have. I can’t boast of anything else. The relationships I have with the people I am close to is all I have and I am blessed because they respect and value me. So it’s not much a juggle as it is a way of life for me. It’s who I am.

ND: How has working with Nobuntu been like?

TM: Well, the world is ever-changing and being a man, working with women is not going to be the simplest thing because there is so much that men need to know, understand and appreciate about women and the diversity of existence. And Nobuntu have taught me a lot in understanding the differences between people and how that is okay and, even more, understanding myself.

ND: Many seek fame and fortune in the arts. What has it been like for you?

TM: Talib Kweli said, “Give me the fortune, keep the fame.” I am that kind of person although I would say I have not yet scratched the surface where the fortune is concerned. The point is to keep at it. My family is happy and my colleagues are happy. That’s fortunate in itself.

ND: Are there any new projects you are working on this year?

TM: I don’t speak about what I am working on until I have reached a certain stage. Work has to reach a certain level of completion before it can be hinted or publicised.

ND: Thank you, Tswa.

TM: You are welcome.

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