The Botched ‘National Prayer’: Challenges in the Performance and Recording of the Botswana National Anthem, 1965-2006

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Christian John Makgala
Peter Mazebe II Sebina


After Kgalemang Motsete’s composition overwhelmingly won the competition for Botswana’s national anthem in 1966, he later realised that the offi cial version was so replete with errors which he said made a mockery of Botswana’s musicianship internationally and refl ected badly on him as the composer. This
paper uses archival records to trace the origin of the national anthem, errors spotted by Motsete and subsequent corrections made, and issues involved in the choral recording of the song. We also look into how a commercial recording company in Johannesburg recorded the anthem without permission from the
government of Botswana, and made losses as the government could not permit the sale of an error-riddled song. Challenges experienced in an attempt to have a British military orchestra record the anthem in collaboration with a commercial company in England are also observed. Furthermore, we examine the attitude of the Batswana to the national anthem which government offi cials condemned as deplorable. Our conclusion is that until about 2006 when the country celebrated its 40th anniversary of Independence, the use of national symbols was restricted under the National Emblems Act and National Emblem Subsidiary legislation. This may have led to a somewhat arm’s length approach to the national anthem by Batswana. It was only after the ‘liberalisation’ of national symbols that Batswana openly and boisterously celebrated national events with national symbols among which was the national anthem.

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