Ben ’Tukumazan’ Molatzi (1954 – 2016) was a Namibian singer/songwriter and guitar player born in Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg, South Africa, where his father was a workman. The origin of the paternal family lies in Gobabis, Namibia. His father was Damara speaking and went to South Africa in search of work while his mother’s family was from Johannesburg. Ben was the third of twelve children and grew up in poverty.
Music always played an important role in Molatzi’s family. The father also was a music man and loved to sing. Also the mother and his siblings were good singers. The family favored all kinds of traditional and church songs.
When he was a young child, Ben’s family would move to Windhoek and later back to Gobabis where Ben started his school career. While living in Khorixas he first learned to play the trumpet. Later the guitar became his most important instrument. He more or less taught himself how to play the guitar. Molatzi possessed both an acoustic and an electric guitar. “It‘s the guitar with which I am doing wonders. Eventually I also realized that I can also sing and that‘s how I got in the music business.”
From 1972 he worked as a teacher in Windhoek at Auos Primary school, also giving music lessons for his students. Music was always at the centre of his teaching activities and was a fixed point in his private life. As a young man, he saw the old masters play in town. They were playing music in the clubs and on Friday nights Ben went dancing. The bands had banjo players, lead guitarists and sometimes bass players and encouraged Ben Molatzi in his own music making.
“I started my music from the field and combine it with the music which I have heard and that was most important to me.”Ben Molatzi’s short recordings career started while he was schooling at ’Cornelius Goreseb’. Representatives of the Damara/ Nama language service had heard about Ben Molatzi and they recorded him on the spot in a classroom in Khorixas. While living in Windhoek he was recorded again, performing his own songs, this time at the South West African Broadcasting Corporation radio studio. The recordings were broadcast by the radio station but never commercially released. This happened during the 1970s and ’80s when Ben also took part in the Music Makers Competition. Most of his songs talk about the life of the people, talk about the nature, it‘s talking about the animals and it is talking mostly about the birds who were his inspiration. “And the songs are sometimes also shaped by how our country is doing. And here and there is also a little bit of politics in the music, but not that much.”
But first and foremost Ben remained a teacher and his main task was to prepare himself for school every day. The regular job kept him from fully concentrating on his music and pursuing a professional career. But Ben Molatzi has always managed to reconcile his teaching profession with his passion for making music. Music has become a fundamental part of his teaching with children. “Music is an instrument which you can quickly teach a person, teach something better or can teach a topic so they can understand better, music is everything.”
Under the South African apartheid regime, no independent cultural and music scene could develop. Media and musicians were strictly controlled for inappropriate content and songs. Censorship was part of everyday life. Some songs that Ben Molatzi recorded for SWABC and that were archived on records were destroyed by the wardens of political correctness by scratching the respective songs on the record with a ballpoint pen so that the songs could no longer be played.
A few years ago, Ben Molatzi gave up school. From then on he earned his living as a bus driver. Thorsten Schütte, one of the later initiators of the Stolen Moments project, set out in 2010 in search of the musician and songwriter Ben Molatzi, about whom he had so much heard. Finally he located him and conducted several interviews with him over the following years. The plan arose to invite the artist to Germany to record a new album with all his unheard songs. The day before his departure from Windhoek, Ben Molatzi died suddenly and unexpectedly because of untreated diabetes. (bear-family)
And here´s first and last album, posthumed and previously unreleased African folk songs by late singer/songwriter Ben Molatzi from Namibia.
His music recordings have been slumbering in oblivion in Namibian radio archives. His songs were consciously censored and damaged as its messages did not please the South African apartheid regime. The album contains field and studio recordings that were made in 1981 by SWABC. To this day, these recordings have never been commercially released. In his liner notes, Thorsten Schütte describes his ultimately successful search for Ben Molatzi and further meetings with the artist, who talks in detail about his life, his songs and the life circumstances in his country.
On these recordings he accompanies himself on the guitar. The lyrics are reprinted in the enclosed booklet in the original tribal language as well as in English translation. (Press release)
Oh, what a gifted musician !
Ben Molatzi (guitar, vocals, whistling)
01. Sida !hu (Our Land Damaraland) 3.30
02. Danisa Sam (Honey Harvest) 1.10
03. Tae e ta go di? (What Have I Done) 2.36
04. Aesa Khaure (Lit He Fire) 2.51
05. Ûbare (Mother’s Daughter, Forgive) 2.17
06. Matis kaikhoesa (Why Does The Woman) 2.30
07. Nukhoe lgôase (Damara Girl) 2.17
08. D:R:M:D 2.23
09. Ben’s Fluit Liedjie (Ben’s Whistling Song) 2.12
10. Sada Hoada nî ?naxu !hub ge (All Of Us) 2.40
11. Dama !hao (Damara People) 1.45
12. lNamtes kha a? (Do You Love Me?) 2.46
13. Ausi Nama (Sister Nama) 2.40
14. Ukhâisen Dama lgôa (Rise Damara Child) 2.16
15. Gamrona lom (Wipe Off Tears) 3.15
16. Bazumi Fluit Stuk (Bazumi Whistle Piece) 2.11
17. Axagu ge lgôade ?nauga (Boys Call And Propose The Girls) 2.29
18. Ta as lguise (Don’t Just Drink) 2.46
19. Tita ge nukhoe lgôata (I Am A Damara Child) 2.49
20. Nes ge (This Is) 1.43
All songs written by Ben Molatzi