The promotion of Setswana through hip hop and motswakolistas

Published in: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa
Volume 14, issue 1-2, 2017 , pages: 1–14
DOI: 10.2989/18121004.2017.1410990
Author(s): Thabo DitseleDepartment of Applied Languages, South Africa


Many South African music genres, such as bubblegum, kwaito and local Afro-pop, originate in Johannesburg and mainly use ‘Jozi Sotho’ or ‘Jozi Zulu’. These two varieties are used as lingua francas in greater Johannesburg and thus reasonably have more ethno-linguistic vitality than other Southern Bantu languages spoken in South Africa. The musical genre of motswako defied tradition and effectively set an unprecedented trend in South Africa, firstly by mainly using Setswana and English code-switches and -mixes, and secondly by developing in Mahikeng. The aim of this article is to highlight this new trend, using qualitative content analysis to examine the lyrics of five popular motswako songs. The analysis illustrates that besides English, motswako mainly uses Setswana (both standard and non-standard varieties). The author proposes that motswako and motswakolistas are part of the identity of Batswana, and thus the growth and popularity of the genre inevitably promotes Setswana’s status in society.

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