Born, Lebo Tatedi, 30 years ago, Elté was a promising talent in Botswana’s R&B circles back in 2013. Back then, she was riding the crest wave, the toast of Botswana’s music scene. In what seemed like a very short space of time, Lebo’s star started burning ever so brightly, with the nation eating out of her palm. An engaging radio show host with a promising music career, the sky was the limit for Elté.
Fast forward to 2020 and you very seldom if ever hear a peep from Elté. We caught up with the songstress to find out what she’s been up to and what the future holds for her.
A star is born…
YB: Elté is a beautiful and unique stage name – what does it mean and how did it come about?
Elté : It is actually my initials LT (for Lebo Tatedi) jazzed up; so instead of straight LT it’s pronounced El-Tay.
YB: Wow, that’s creative! We thought it might be a French name LOL So, where’s home?
Elté: Home is Gaborone, Botswana.
YB: When did you discover your love of music as well as your singing talent?
Elté: My love of music came at a very young age at grade 4. I remember falling in love with music and connecting with it so well that I was able to understand the emotions of a song.
I was able to write my own ‘little girl’ level song expressing emotions, and what was going on around me. From that age, I started using music to learn what was difficult for me to grasp in class. Yes, even maths! I put it in a song to understand it and remember it.
YB: Where do you get your music talent – is music in your family?
Elté: I honestly do not know. My mom says she was a singer back when she was younger. I don’t know my dad, but I have seen a picture of him at the piano with a saxophone in the shot too.
My mom’s family has several ladies in the well known choral music group, KTM Choir and some who sing at church. I think it was my mom’s love for music – she bought so many tapes and let me indulge. That is where I believe it comes from.
I remember choosing to stay in my room for most of the day to sing along to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion to train myself to hit the same notes in the same manner.
As time went on, I discovered my own taste and started training myself to be the singer, songwriter and performer that I still believe I am crafting.
YB: You have a rich and distinct quality to your voice, the ability to belt out very hard to reach high notes. Besides practising in your room all those years ago, did you at any point in your singing career take singing lessons? Is it even a thing in Botswana?
Elté: Hahahahaha singing lessons were not something that anybody spoke to me about when I started out! My first formal vocal lessons were actually in 2012, so far into my music journey. I had just been diagnosed with vocal nodules as a result of aggressive vocal usage during my Film Acting Degree.
The diagnosis led to the vocal sessions, which were more vocal therapy to help with the growth on my vocal cords to avoid the surgery (like the one Adele had done). Before the vocal nodules, I could hit any note and sing effortlessly and flawlessly.
I do need to do it because talking a lot and talking for long periods results in a tight throat and an even more hoarse speaking voice. At times, I can even lose my voice for a day or two. For me to get back into music as I am planning to, I will need a vocal therapist on speed dial because the vocal modules flare up. I need to learn how to sing around them and not make them worse. Otherwise, I’ll need surgery, which might mess up my vocal range even further.
YB: Oh, we certainly hope it doesn’t get to that! The world deserves to hear Elté. You first burst onto Botswana’s music scene back in 2013-14 – It’s been a while since you’ve been out of the limelight. Is that deliberate?
Elté: It honestly wasn’t deliberate. In 2014, I had a music management contract with an agency and record label ready to work with me, both in America. The idea was to work with them to develop my brand and in turn, grab the interest of a bigger record label.
Permits were being sorted out for me to travel to go and record, everything was on track, and investors did their part too. Then love happened. I postponed things for four months to get married in December 2014. Life kept happening, and unfortunately, my marriage and music career were not aligning. As a result, my career fell through.
My husband wasn’t grasping what my career needed and why. I never thought six years would pass and I would still not have released even a single song! I have tried many times to release music, but I have not been stable in my life; a hurricane would ruin the little bit I was doing to make my come back.
YB: We understand you’re now working the 9-5 grind at Incepta. Is that where you want to be?
Elté: Yes and No. Yes, because Incepta is actually the PR & Strategy Agency that handled the launch of Elté in 2014. I had just come back from Germany and had to lose the artist name I used there to start afresh.
Incepta approached me to experiment and try something new by managing an artist’s PR & Branding. What I experienced when I was their client made me want to work with Thabo Majola, Incepta’s managing Director. I am learning so much from him, and it is so exciting to be working with him. I could write a page about how he empowers and educates me. I always walk out of a meeting that he has chaired feeling like I’m about to take over the world.
Knowing how much he believes in me and supports me as a woman and as an artist is motivating. It keeps me going, and it is healing; he constantly reminds me of who I am, what I am capable of, what I am good at and that I have a purpose. The rebirth of of Elté is happening because Incepta (Thabo Majola) has given an opportunity that is growing me.
Is the 9-5 grind where I want to be? No, because all I ever want to do is to write music, sing, dance, shoot music videos, perform live on stage and also get back into the film industry. I dream of my comeback, which I am slowly working on, and it is very exciting to know that I am stable and capable in my current state and circumstances.
A star on the rise…
YB: You worked for Yarona FM for a time – how did that come about?
Elté: Through another person who believed in me, Bonni Dintwa, who was Ya Rona FM’s Programmes Manager. I will forever call him my boss. One random day – I think it was August 2014 – he called me up to see him at Yarona FM, where he then explained his vision and how I was part of the puzzle. He offered me a job on the spot. Training started soon after that, and by October 2014, I was on air, doing the Morning Show.
YB: Wow, he certainly deserves that praise! You took to radio like a duck to water and had quite a following. Had you had any radio training before Yarona came knocking on your door?
Elté: Yes, through my Film Degree, actually – Under Screen Acting, we were trained for Television, News Anchoring/Reading, Radio and Theatre.
YB: Why did the Yarona FM gig come to an end?
Elté: Again, my marriage. It was quickly falling apart so soon after it started. I was married for five months, two months pregnant and on a daily basis, things were horrific in my marriage.
My pregnancy also added to my stresses. Then what pushed me even further into a deep, dark depression was losing my management deal and the record label that wanted to work with me because of what was going on in my marriage.
What’s more, my husband and I were not agreeing on what I wanted and needed to do for my career. The logistics of my personal life went against my career, and that was a big, painful blow. So in the end, in my depressed state, I couldn’t be on air. I was always in tears and struggling to get out of bed.
I then chose to quit so that I didn’t fall apart on air in the middle of a show. I knew I was going through a depression and needed to go through what I was going through in privacy and at my own pace.
YB: You really went through the wringer – we are so sorry to hear this. Being in the limelight has a way of sucking people in. Some would even say it’s addictive. In spite of your personal experiences, do you miss it?
Elté: Absolutely 🙂 I miss it because it gave me the platform to reach a lot of people and inspire young men and women. I love and I am big on personal development.
So, I am all about motivating and empowering anybody I come across who needs that hand and those words said to them. I miss it because creating music and performing is therapy for me. I understand and process life through music and I want to use it to help another person by giving them a voice.
I miss it for the network of people – you meet so many people from all walks of life. I love people, I love interacting. I miss the thrill of it all.
YB: Back in 2014, with your singles on high rotation on local radio stations, the future was truly bright. When was the moment that you felt you’d made it?
Elté: I never thought I’d made it; rather, I felt that I finally had a foot in when the USA management team reached out to me and with a small record label, in the USA, too.
Then recently, in the past two years, I have had an American Grammy award-winning music producer reach out to me, asking if I was ready to change my life. He is interested in working with me; I just need to do my part and position myself well.
This will take some time to bear fruit because of various circumstances. But I believe, so far, I have made something out of nothing, but I still have a LOT of work to do to be where I was and then, to go even further up the ladder.
YB: You reportedly lived in South Africa and Germany where the music scene is light years ahead of Botswana’s. Can you paint a picture of what that was like in terms of your music:
Did either influence your music in any way? What inroads, if any, did you make while you were in each country?
Elté: Neither actually influenced my music. In SA, I was more about the film industry than the music.
In Germany, I was signed to a record label for pop music. I fell out with the record label, and that led to a lawsuit. I was not happy about many aspects of the contract, including the music production.
The music I released in 2013 and what I am currently working on is not in any way a touch of my South African life or Germany life.
YB: How did the TCM (Pace Entertainment) link come about? Enlighten us – how big of a deal is he?
Elté: TCM is one powerhouse of a man and he’s behind a few of the successful artists in Botswana. Unfortunately; so far, we have not been able to produce any work. He has wanted to invest in me, but my personal life and instability have worked against the plans and creations we had.
Currently, we are not working on anything. Things just evaporated into thin the air, but I do have hope. As an artist, I also need to do my part in the projects, and I believe at the time we started work, I was still in the hurricane of my personal life.
YB: Given the size and advances made in the South African and German music industries, how would you say Botswana’s fledgeling music scene stacks up?
Elté: Botswana’s music industry is definitely finally taking shape with regards to the quality of music produced. As a whole, though, it is still developing. I must give it up to those who are currently active within the industry.
However, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to the governing laws and the value of the industry which will actually be the great foundation, support and aspects that will help the industry grow better and bigger.
Currently, an artist does not earn a sustainable income to have it as the only source of income; an artist needs to have other side hustles to get by. But I believe things will soon change, and our music artists will be influential and grow to a better status. For example, they will also be able to monetise their social media spaces – we have to acknowledge and accept that we are behind the times and still have a long way to go.
YB: Being in the creative space ourselves, we agree there ’s the need for laws that govern creative arts!What challenges did you come up against that your fellow Botswana artists would relate to in terms of finding success in the local music industry?
Elté: Costing a performance is really difficult in this country. Our consumers take our industry very lightly, they underestimate it and look down on it. Our consumers do not respect, appreciate and understand what work and how much goes into delivering what they finally see as the finished product.
Having said that, this is also influenced by us, the artists. So much in the way we handle and run the business communicates the wrong picture and how to treat it. We need more platforms for the music industry to show itself. Yes, the music industry should create its platforms; however, other industries need to start acknowledging this industry to find ways to collaborate to support its growth.
YB: It certainly sounds very familiar to us too. What else do you feel is hindering the local music scene from exploding to the heights of say South Africa and Nigeria?
Elté: The lack of knowledge of the music business as a whole and the many shortcuts our music industry personnel take.
YB: If you had a magic wand, what would you change to make it more favourable for Botswana artists?
Elté: Establish governing laws for the entertainment industry.
YB: In a 2014 interview with The Gazette, you said of the musicians you wanted to collaborate with;
“Sasa Klaas, she is on fire I have great respect for her. She is not scared to express herself, you just can’t ignore her or shut her down. MVP and Tshepo Lesole, I respect these men for how they use their music, what they stand for. With them, I know I will be able to express my spiritual side. Samantha Mogwe – I believe her and I could be powerful and inspire young girls; we could make a change.”
Did that dream ever become reality?
Elté: Unfortunately, not yet. It isn’t that easy to get a collaboration. One that I am praying will happen sooner than soon is Sasa Klaas. So we will see how my reaching out will play out.
YB: If you could, which singer, living or dead, would you like to work with?
Elté: Beyoncé – I have been a fan since the days of Destiny’s Child’s ‘No, no, no.’
YB: Which musicians besides Beyoncé inspire you?
Elté: Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, among many.
YB: What genre music do you enjoy listening to the most?
Elté: R&B is what I would say without even thinking about it. However, it has shifted over the recent years. It is such a mix. I cannot call it. Within one month, I go a whole week listening to R&B (Lamar, Beyonce, Deborah Cox etc), to the next listening to soft music such as the Natalie Taylor vibe, then the following week my mood and emotions are yearning for some JayZ and similar artists with vocalists.
But the common thread throughout is the vocals. I am attracted to songs with interesting and dynamic vocals and music arrangement. I am that person who notices and is moved by how the strings between a verse and chorus add that heavy, strong emotion, taking note of the specific count – literally.
For instance – I have obsessed, and I’m still obsessing over Brian McKnight’s Nobody: the piano intro, the gentle yet strong delivery of lyrics throughout the whole song, the emotions in the voice and singing technique.
The lyrics are absolutely beautiful they get me teary; the strings in the verse; the transition from verse to chorus is so full of emotion, ESPECIALLY the second verse into second chorus 1.57 – 2.00; then 2.30 – 2.42; the sudden rise/growth in the music and vocals at 2.56 to then closing the song. When this song is done, I have travelled the journey of all the emotions put into this song.
YB: Wow, you just took us through the whole emotion that runs through that song! You’re a gorgeous lady and have carved out a cutting edge look for Elté – who are your style influences?
Elté: I don’t think I do have a style influence. When it comes to style, I go for comfort, what I feel in that time and not forgetting what looks good on me; I do not follow fashion. Just know that I love colour.
Elté weathers the storm, comes out the other end happier, stronger!
YB: You traded Germany for Botswana. People here tend to believe living abroad is all that. You’ve been there and done that, what for you makes Botswana the better option over Germany?
Elté: To be honest, it wasn’t the plan to be here. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t advantages. The biggest advantage is that there is room to do what you want without too much pressure. It is a much safer ground to build your dream while perfecting your skills.
YB: You have spoken freely and publicly about your life having been a whirlwind, a whirlwind that literally took you on an emotional rollercoaster after launching your music career. Can you tell us about that?
Elté: It is too much to say, it deserves a book or a movie. My career honestly started picking up when I least expected it. I planned to launch my music, but I didn’t prepare myself in any other way for the response I got. I was not ready for it.
Then my personal life started going through changes at the same time. That was the biggest, strongest whiplash. I had my music, an 8-5 job, radio (the morning show) and was in new love. Can you imagine what my schedule looked like and how my emotions were playing out throughout just one day?
YB: It certainly sounds hectic! You’ve also said depression played a huge part in you hitting a dark phase. Are you willing to discuss what the triggers were?
Elté: The first trigger was my marriage being a horrible experience from day 8. Yes, that’s how quickly the cookie crumbled!
The second trigger was losing my music opportunities as a result of the marriage conversations that did and did not happen before and at the start of my marriage.
I look back at my experience, and I am still shocked that I am alive and have made it through these past years. I was deeper than I could acknowledge.
YB: What was the turning point that finally led to your happy space?
Elté: Antidepressants. They were my turning point. When I was put on them, I knew what was happening, yet I was still not wanting to face it.
But during therapy and seeing my doctor, that process helped me get out of the hole I was in. Antidepressants, as much as they killed who I was at the time of being on them – they even changed my ‘preferred’ food and my personality – they saved me from what was happening to me and helped me stop lying to myself about my situation. I was now on the outside looking into my life, and I could finally be my own best friend.
I was able to make the decision to love me and put me first. As soon as I stabilised on them, I tackled my issue, I protected myself; I had to be selfish to survive and to be happy.
Then the best thing happened, the best gift – I saw my daughter light back up and live so loud and bold.
Elté the mother…
YB: You have a beautiful little girl called Lariah-Rose. What a beautiful name for a pretty little girl. How did that come about?
Elté: Ariah, meaning Lioness of God was actually the chosen name. I then wanted it to start with an L just like my real name starts with an L. So it made Lariah which, in different languages, means different things including ‘The Stars Are Mine’ and ‘Sweet One Forever’. Then I added Rose to make it different. Plus Rose is my mom’s name, and I wanted her to have a piece of my mom.
YB: Beautiful! How do you feel motherhood has changed you if at all?
Elté: In every single way. I am so conscious of myself and the world. Motherhood has helped me be a better person as I now see the result of me in my child. Through my own daughter, I am able to see my weaknesses and strengths, and when I’m right and wrong.
I don’t believe I am as naive, judgemental and rigid as I used to be; I am more because so much about me has changed for the better because of motherhood.
YB: You’ve said God knew what He was doing when he put Lariah-Rose in your life – what, in your opinion, was He doing?
Elté: He was keeping me alive. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t believe I would have been alive today. There are many times I wanted to throw in the towel, and I thank God for her. I always say, Lariah-Rose is my God-given solace – God lives in my child.
YB: So what have you been doing with yourself since you became a mother – how has that affected your love of and the ability to pursue music?
Elté: Being a mother 🙂 the fact that I breastfed for 4 years (no pumping) really changed the logistics in my life, and I admit, I am absolutely addicted to my daughter. I have been all about motherhood in a way I never knew I was capable of, and that has resulted in my pursuit of music taking a back seat – all finances and time go towards my daughter.
It was only during the first lockdown that I finally sat down to write. She is a grown girl now; she knows mommy has prayer time, work time and music time and is absolutely cooperative.
We are a team.
Elté – the future…
YB: You recently turned 30 and said on your Facebook page that you were “happy, content and satisfied” – besides Lariah-Rose, what would you attribute this to?
Elté: I let go of something I thought I should never not let go of. I let go of something that was literally killing me psychologically and who knows, maybe it would’ve ended my life sooner than my time. I chose me for the first time in many years.
Then, to move forward and position myself where I needed to be; I acknowledged, accepted, owned and took a stance that says I’m unashamed of what I have been through, who I currently am and where I am in my life in all areas.
YB: You’ve experienced a lot of upheavals in your life the likes of which many wouldn’t survive – with the benefit of hindsight, would you do any of it differently?
Elté: Definitely. I would do one thing differently in my life for sure; and its something that I struggle to not beat myself up about it on a daily basis.
YB: Looking back, what advice would you give your 24-year-old self?
Elté: Don’t strip away any part of you or make yourself small in any way for another person to shine. You are allowed to love yourself and you should do so every day.
YB: Very wise words! You acquired a lot very quickly and at a very young age. Are there times when you think you may have peaked too soon?
Elté: Yes, yes, yes!
YB: What’s does the future hold for Elté, and does it feature music or even radio?
Elté: All that I am doing now is find my way back to the music. Being a mom means responsibilities that can’t wait for the next gig, but four tracks are already in the works. As for radio, I am also looking to get back into it. Elté is coming back with so much to talk about.
YB: That sounds very exciting! We can’t wait to see you embark on this new chapter of your life and wish you the very best of luck in achieving it all. Please stay in touch and keep us posted 🙂