Botswana music camp is an annual event started in 1985 by a group of musicians including the famous South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela. It is organised into seven groups: marimba, segaba (a Setswana violin type instrument), African drums, solo singing pop, solo singing classical, dance and instrumental.
I’m in instrumental. Our teacher for instrumental is the very talented Tsilo Baitsile, an exceptional saxophonist and singer. In our group we have a band made up of 12 people, drummers, keyboard players, guitarists and a trumpet player (me).
Each day we attend camp choir in the morning where we learn songs together. So far our repertoire includes a song in Sesotho, one in Setswana, and yesterday one in Italian. After camp choir we spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon in our main group. The last hour or so of the day, we attend one of the other groups that we didn’t choose so as to have exposure to it. Yesterday we did marimba. It is a bit more than exposure. In that hour, he taught our group a whole song (!) with all of the different parts. Amazing.
The people here are very talented and committed to music. I am severely impressed with the whole thing. I have never played in a band before; my trumpet playing has been confined to 30 minutes 2-3 times a week locked in my bedroom. Playing in a band is a completely different kettle of fish I can tell you. Also I am a musician who reads notes from a page. The other people in the band play by ear. It is astounding. Someone will play a song and then the teacher will say okay accompany him. Magically they find their parts and play! I am astounded. We are mostly playing jazz and every song has sections for improvisation. The teacher just points at someone and the person plays- on the spot made up in his head. He made the mistake of pointing at me the first day. I think he learned the futility in that. I will have learned an incredible amount if I can get through the six or so songs that we will be performing on Saturday, I think we’ll save any improvisation for next year’s camp.