♫ 3 Blind Men Sing, Botswana

Gaborone, Botswana, 1st July 2010

I meet up with Chaba at his home in Phase II. This is the first time I am meeting him.

Chaba was in Australia for 6 years – 3 years somewhere in New South Wales and 3 years in Melbourne. He lived with my friend Moortu in St. Albans, studying Student Welfare at Victoria University. Now he is the Disabilities Co-ordinator at Limkokwing University, a Malaysian University in Botswana.

I knock on Chaba’s door and hear a muffled voice say something I can’t discern. I take it as an invitation to enter. I find Chaba seated – guitar on his lap, snake skin boots on his feet, cream trousers, a zipped up sports jacket, open at the neck, and sunglasses perched at the end of his nose – bright white blue eyes, blind, staring over the top of them. Also in the room is his shy daughter, Felicia, his cousin with her young child and one of Chaba’s students, whose shoulders are lopsided – one up near his ear, the other dropping down. Polio perhaps?

We introduce ourselves and pretty soon Chaba is singing songs. After playing two songs a man, a driver, comes to the door and Chaba says to me,

“Okay, Lucky – this is where we’re going. This is where the music will be.”

We climb in to a car, 5 of us and a couple of guitars, and drive out to Block I, the original Village in Gaborone, out past Extension 15. Driving down paved roads and unpaved ones, to a remote house at the end of an  dead end, dirt road. We drive in to the yard and step out of the car.

The sun is beginning to set, casting long shadows across the yard. Out the back is a small red shed with a few garden tools in it. The driver pulls up a chair for Chaba, who sits down, sunglasses over his blind eyes, and begins singing, staring straight in to the sun.

Love is something if you give it away,

You give it away, Give it away

Love is something if you give it away,

You end up having more

It’s just like a magic penny

Hold it tight and you haven’t any

But if you spend it then you’ll have so many

They’ll roll over the floor.

Running around the yard is a filthy, half blind child, maybe 4 years old, running in circles around the car, distantly staring at everything, trying to grasp as much of the visual world as he can before he inevitably turns completely blind.

The driver returns with another blind man, Fred. Chaba stops singing and introduces Fred and I to each other. Another blind man, Duncan, then emerges out of the house behind us, and there they are – 3 Blind Men, about to sing songs. Songs about blindness, the weariness of life & the understanding of God, women as chameleons, reggae, redemption and it being a small world.

Fred plays guitar and sings, with Chaba and Duncan singing backing harmonies. They sing for an hour, a dozen songs, stopping between each song, deciding on what they should play next.

Such earnest music & musicians amongst so much blindness, poverty and isolation.

After singing their songs Duncan sits with me for a while, and we talk about various things. He speaks of running out of time.

“That’s the little that we can do, sir. The problem is, as you can see, we really are struggling…fighting so hard with everything we have…you see, the blind here in Botswana, there is no work we can find, except for music…”

I ask him if they get much opportunity to play. No – they don’t. He continues,

“You see there is only one side – there is the sighted side, and they are the ones being promoted. If you ask for any sponsorship anywhere, you know, it just gets rejected – you never know how or why. Even if you try to show people what you are doing, there is not enough appreciation.”

He explains that they are seeking support – mainly instruments. Guitars, keyboards, drums, microphones, mixers. PA – everything.  He says that they can take care of transportation, but the problem is the instruments. He asks that I return to Australia and try to promote them, to raise awareness. I tell him that I will do what I can.

Saying goodbye, the five of us who came together climb back in to the car, which we never walked away from, and drive back through unpaved roads to paved ones, and home to Block 5.

One day when I was walking in the street

With a sighted friend beside me

We met a nice looking lady

And when we greeted her

She answered with her voice

That pierced through my heart

Like a sharp knife

So I decided to tell her of my love

But she refused, oh yes she refused

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming

So the Rasta inside can come out and say

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming

She came close to me like a chameleon

Oh yes like a chameleon

And when she heard the words I love you

She was disdained, I said

‘You’d rather love my friend better than I

Because blind I am”

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming

So the Rasta inside can come out and say

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming

Ladies do think that

They are created for the sight of their lovers

They think that blind guys are unfashionable and money-less

I say, where sighted guys see them

And leave them with fatherless babies

It’s a shame

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming

So the rasta inside can come out and say

It’s more than a feeling

There’s a lot of discrimination

I hope I’m dreaming


8 responses to “♫ 3 Blind Men Sing, Botswana

  1. woww,,thats really amzing…well done lochie :),,keep it up!!!!

  2. self cheating, man
    blinds do have rights to love, but ….

  3. No doubt, 1, but i guess they are just expressing their frustration at how many women respond to their romantic advances…

  4. These guys are so talented. I am a music teacher at Serowe College of Education but because our music education program does not cater for the blind in terms of notation, i feel so challenged to investigate the possibilities of implementing Inclusive Music Education in Botswana. Joel Motlhabane

    • Thanks for taking the time to write, Joel. Yes – they truly are talented. No doubt music notation would be a major challenge in this context. Perhaps there are other opportunities or services that could be arranged through the school though? One of the major setbacks these musicians face is access to equipment – PA, keyboards, amplifiers etc…Perhaps the school could organise some performance opportunities to help raise their public profile as well as generating some money? Or perhaps fundraising campaigns to help contribute towards buying some new equipment. They explained to me that they have a network of support such as driver and technical support to make their own shows happen, they are simply lacking the instruments and sound system to create their own opportunities. I would love to hear your thoughts on this possibility.


  5. As a motswana I think the government has a lot of poverty eradication programs in place to assist the less previlladged and these guys know it very well. It is just a matter of meeting the relevant officer at the Ministry of Sports Youth and Culture and they will be assisted.

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