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Lerofo crafts musical magic from soul

12 Sep 2023

In the warm embrace of Botswana’s music realm, one artiste’s journey glosses with passion and dedication.

That is none other than Patriot Makele alias Lerofo.

The rising star has etched his name in the annals of Botswana’s musical heritage.

After the release of his album Forgetful in 2021, the star is working round the clock to release a single dubbed Teemane before end of this month.

The single celebrates love and compares a woman to a diamond.

“A woman like a diamond is valuable in life, hence the title of the single. Our country relies on diamonds for our developmental needs, the same value women hold in their families. Both deserve to be appreciated.”

The single was produced by a local lad Names, who has worked with the likes of South African Casper Nyovest, 2point1 among other renowned musicians, while the full album is set to be dropped March 2024.   

With a blend of authenticity and fervor, Lerofo’s narrative unfolds as a cloth woven from threads of determination, cultural pride, and an unyielding commitment to his craft.

He remembers his humble beginnings when he used to hang out with Kgotla Kgaodi of Matshidiso fame.

Lerofo’s musical journey began in his formative years, where he found a friend and collaborator in Kgotla. 

Together, they navigated the uncharted waters of the music industry, performing at shows and gaining their first exposure to live events.

The memories of their time together served as steppingstones for Lerofo’s evolution as an artiste.


The Birth of Phelong

One remarkable aspect of Lerofo’s creative process is his ability to tap into the spiritual realm of inspiration. 

He shares an anecdote of how he envisioned the name Phelong in 2020, long before the song’s creation.

“I had a name for it. I didn’t have the song; I didn’t have an instrumental at the time. I just had a name. I kept on saying to my sound engineer, Barry Bone, that I have a song called Phelong. It's going to be fire,” he said.

“And then in 2023, I was able to record the song. When I had an instrumental, everything just kept coming and then it was Phelong and then it just synced in.”

Despite lacking a concrete melody or instrumental, Lerofo’s unwavering belief in the power of his song led him to persevere. 

The moment finally arrived in 2023 when the song was fully realised, demonstrating the strength of his connection to the ethereal sources of creativity.


A Musical Odyssey

From Record Labels to Independence

Lerofo’s journey through the music industry reflects the resilience of an artiste determined to make his mark.

“I came into the industry, I got my first signing in 2011.  The label was Ramco before I signed with Local Music from 2011 until 2013 and then I left for Heartbeat Sounds.  

Through these two labels everything was organised by Press Beats because I had gone to Pressley before looking to get started in the industry so he is the one who had everything going. I was with Heartbeat I think for two or three years up until 2016 and then I left the label,” he said.

Starting with his signing with Ramco, and later transitioning to Heartbeat Sounds, Lerofo’s path wasn’t always smooth. 

Navigating the challenges of financial constraints and industry dynamics, he eventually chose the path of independence. 

With his business-savvy mindset, Lerofo took control of his music, production, and branding, carving out his unique space in the industry.


Triumph over Challenges 

One of the most significant obstacles Lerofo faced was financial hardship. 

As an independent artiste responsible for his studio time, production costs, and event logistics, he encountered the harsh reality of an industry that often favours larger budgets and established names. 

Lerofo’s determination to overcome these challenges led him to set a standard for his worth. 

He learned to decline inadequate offers and hustled to sustain his musical journey.


Spiritual Insights and Cultural Heritage

Lerofo’s music transcends mere entertainment; it carries a spiritual essence that connects with listeners on a profound level. 

Drawing inspiration from Botswana’s cultural heritage, he weaves a cloth of identity through his lyrics and melodies.

“My music is an imprint of Botswana. My music is a stamp of Botswana. When someone hears it in South Africa, they know that this is from Botswana because I sing in Setswana. I express myself in Setswana,” Lerofo said passionately.

Lerofo’s respect for tradition is evident not only in his musical compositions, but also in his choice of filming locations, showcasing the country’s beauty and heritage in his videos.


Memorable Moments 

His musical journey has been punctuated by memorable performances that embody the essence of his artistry. 

Following the challenging year of the pandemic, the Serowe All White Picnic became a moment of triumph.

“The minute the crowd could sing each and every word of Badimo got me teary. I just couldn’t explain the feeling. It was a beautiful feeling,” he said of his memorable performance. 

This powerful connection showcased the resilience of music in uniting people during tough times.

Similarly, his participation in the Botswana National Sports Council Awards added a patriotic twist to his career, highlighting his pride in being a cultural ambassador through his music.


Influences and Musical Identity

Lerofo’s influences are a diverse blend of local and international artistes who have left an indelible mark on his musical journey. 

Such Icons as Natti Mankani, Loiso, Zahara, and Ringo Madlingozi have contributed to shaping his sonic landscape.

 However, it is Culture Spears and the enduring star power of Franco that have resonated with him most. 

These influences have helped Lerofo strike a balance between artistic passion and impact, driving him to create music that truly matters.


Navigating an Industry at the Crossroads

Lerofo’s candid assessment of Botswana’s music industry paints a picture of both aspiration and frustration. 

He acknowledges that the industry’s landscape remains divided between a select few who consistently secure bookings and the majority who struggle to break through. 

“I personally believe we’re at a stagnant stage because, look at South Africa. South Africa is dropping a new artiste every week. There’s a new star in South Africa every week,” he observed.

While recognising the challenges, Lerofo’s resolve to find his place among the successful few is unyielding. 

He aims to earn his spot through hard work, resilience, and impactful music, rather than relying on friendships or political connections.


A Spiritual Creative Process and Artistic Evolution

At the core of Lerofo’s artistry lies a spiritual creative process that transcends conventional techniques. 

His ability to tap into a higher realm of inspiration sets him apart, allowing him to create music that resonates deeply with listeners. 

While his approach has temporarily limited collaborations, Lerofo’s devotion to authenticity keeps him firmly rooted in his artistic vision.

“Every song that I write comes from a place where there’s just so much. It comes from a special place.  I can’t put someone else on the song because it disturbs the direction that I want the music to go,” he said.


Paving the Way for Emerging Artistes

Lerofo’s journey is a testament to the power of determination, authenticity and self-reliance. 

His advice to emerging artistes emphasises the need for financial independence, knowledge of the music industry and humility. 

As a rising star, he serves as an inspiration to those who aspire to break barriers and leave their mark on the world through their art.

“Nothing is for free. No one will give you anything for free. Nothing will be handed out to you on a silver platter,” Lerofo advised.In the vast landscape of Botswana’s music scene, Lerofo stands as a symbol of hope, determination, and unwavering belief in his craft.

His fusion of cultural heritage, spiritual inspiration and musical influences creates a unique sonic experience that speaks to the heart and soul of his listeners. 

With each lyric he pens, each melody he crafts, Lerofo continues to forge a path that transcends borders, connecting with audiences on a universal level. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Job Makati

Location : Gaborone

Event : Interview

Date : 12 Sep 2023