The product of a father from South Africa and mother from Lesotho who were exiled during the ‘70s, Palesa Bautloane’s background is as diverse as her musical offerings. Influenced by her parents’ love for music, attending a UB40 concert was the catalyst for her beginnings as a vocalist, arts activist and cultural practitioner.
Having picked up the marimba in 1998, she still places the instrument at the center of her creations. She’d combine this instrumentation with her love for singing and augment it with her knack for poetry – a skill gleaned from listening to her older brother’s hip hop collection.
Now known as Maya Asiyah Roze, she fuses soul, jazz, ska—a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae, combining elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues—and dub into her iteration of afro-reggae. Recognised as the only practising female reggae artist in Botswana, Maya aims to promote the genre with the help of producer and engineer Maleho Boxcutta Makgothi – co-founder of the Gaborone-based bandcamp store Another Tuesday Music Concept Store.
Explaining her attraction towards reggae, Maya cites the genre’s history of providing upliftment to society’s downtrodden. “As an advocate of the people,” she says, “my job is to always evoke love in them… even during the tough times”. To this end, the 37 year old artist has released her debut solo project – the first installment of her M.A.R.S (Maya Asiyah Roze Sings) series titled The Warrior.
Beginning with the project’s artwork, the theme of love in a time of war is palpable and captures the singer’s activist roots. The EP conceptually explores this with Maya playing the role of the Warrior’s lover. Over its six tracks, the notion of love is expanded upon with the lyricism and musicality accompanying each phase of the story. “I hear these melodies,” Maya says contextually, “… and my heart just does the writing”. The album blurb similarly summarises her musings while shedding light on our protagonist’s journey and revealing what messages are cocooned within the offering:
“Having recovered the ancestors’ stolen land and avenging her fallen King Romi, Maya celebrates the close of a successful campaign with her allied army and their tribal leaders. With wanton revelry, they dance the night away to the psychedelic sounds of dub and jungle beats. In the midst of this riddim session, Maya meets and makes her love bond with the Warrior King Van and together they slip away from the rigors of war to find new adventure on the battlefields of love.”
Drawing on her family history – deeply affected by her parent’s exile during apartheid – Maya delicately posits her Setswana lyricism in the realms between joy and strife. Showcasing her songwriting and composition skills, she takes on a visceral journey that wraps storytelling and organic African sounds into tropical landscapes. “I can’t tell anybody else’s story about love besides mine,” Maya shares. “This is the story of how I see myself and how amidst all of life’s challenges I have a main purpose… to heal, love and serve”.
Constructing her story with a partner in tow, Maya reveals an ethos that prioritises the collective in a way that encourages growth and building. By situating love within a situation of war, the multi-faceted artist is hypothesising that interpersonal bonds are worth fighting for. With a second installment of her volume titled The Lover on the way, she hopes the support of Another Tuesday Music Concept Store can inspire the same communal development of Botswana’s musical scene and population. “I’m very passionate about community development and how we relate to each other,” Maya says “I want to sing about love of self, love of what we do and be a symbol of hope.”
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