I never thought I would see heavy metal cowboys in the Okavango Delta, but this was only one of many surprises that the Maun Festival, held on the last weekend of April, threw at me.
Despite the heat of the Kalahari, heavy metal fans of the Gaborone band Remuda wore boots, which nearly strangled their knees, leather pants which zipped right around the crotch, cowboy hats, Metallica T-shirts and even plastic masks.
Another way-out act, dubbed by my friends as the “over-sexed security guards”, was a group of real security guards who call themselves Matona. They had somehow pulled their trousers so high up around their waists that it looked like they all had fertile erections, which they displayed as they gyrated, much to the delight of the women in the audience.
Following on four years of The Maun Carnival, The Maun Festival has expanded to include more art forms and the standard of music presented at its debut was not be sneezed at. Festival organiser Desmond Green aims to draw in crowds from the Southern African Development Community region to promote Maun, the quaint supply nucleus of the Okavango Delta.
Some of the country’s top acts delighted the crowds. Among them was Ikalanga jazz veteran Ndingo Johwa, who appears to be Botswana’s version of Oliver Mtukudzi: tall, stately, flamboyantly dressed, deep-voiced, with a great backing band — and no shabby dancer either.
Molepole folk singer Malefo Mokha, otherwise known as Stampore, has an authentic and unique style of playing guitar, with the left hand held above instead of below the neck, but still creating chord shapes. He was backed by top Botswana DJ Solomon Monyame, aka Solo B on double bass, and managed to put tons more expression into his music than his poker face implied he would.
The only South African act, Them Particles, was so popular with the locals that they were not allowed to leave and performed after the weekend at The Old Bridge backpackers to a large, inebriated and vocal crowd.
Green is still keen to continue with the Maun Festival, despite having made a loss this year. This may have been because of the festival being split into two venues: the stalls were mostly at the Power Station, while the bands played at the Cedia Hotel, a delightful monument to the colonial era.
Green explained that the split was to accommodate families who could not afford the 50 pula entrance to watch the bands. They had to pay only 20 pula to attend the power station venue, where family activities and stalls were the order of the day. The split did have a negative effect on attendance at the music venue.
The main objective of the festival was to raise funds for three schools (Bana be Metsi, Bana be Letstatsi and Belega Bana), which rely on donations from the private and public sectors. It also aimed to promote the arts. The event was promoted by the Botswana Tourism Board and advertised on national TV and radio. For details of next year’s event, visit www.maunfestival.com