EXCLUSIVE: GIMC Founder Breaks Down The Festival, African Collaboration And Diversity In The Arts Space

The festival is still on.

By  | Apr 18, 2020, 09:00 AM  | Events  | Top of The

Contrary to what's happening in the world right now, 2020 has not been cancelled just yet because we have many festivals happening later this year to look forward to. (And yes - our favourite one is still happening! Finally some good news.....)

TSWAlebs had the opportunity to speak to, Thapelo Fish Pabalinga, the mastermind behind the Gaborone International Music And Culture Week to pick his brain on the developments around this year's edition of the festival amid the very real threat of the Coronavirus outbreak. 

We also had to tip our hats off to him for his efforts in putting Botswana up there with the rest of the world's biggest festivals. 

We started out by addressing the elephant in the room. 

The outbreak of Coronavirus has resulted in the cancellation of many events and we were a little concerned how it might affect the GIMC as it is a festival that so many people in the country look forward to every year. It turns out Thapelo is not very worried about it as the festival usually takes place in September which is a few months away. 

"We are watching with keen interest the developments around Covid -19 Virus. We are in touch with all relevant stakeholders and should a need arise to shift the dates we shall do so. The safety of our patrons is paramount and we will do all what is necessary to ensure their safety" 

Black Coffee
If there is one thing we know about the GIMC it is that it never disappoints, each year the festival evolves and although there will be a few surprises in store the format will be similar to that of the previous years with 8 shows for the duration of the week. 

"Our chronology of shows will be staged as follows: Fitness and Aerobics, Jazz, Champagne Picnic, Theatre, Poetry, Comedy, Clap and Tap and Main Festival-( 28 August until 5 September 2020)"

Prince Kaybee

The pride he has in the growth of the GIMC is evident in his voice as he takes us on the journey of how it all began. Thapelo was, and still is, passionate about youth development and creating an outlet to market Botswana's talent. 

"The inspiration to start GIMC came from working with so many talented youth and the ultimate realization that it was about time we took talent in Botswana to the world. We then set out to introduce into the market a unique concept that will stand the test of time whilst also supporting various SMME’s in the process."

DJ Fresh

GIMC started off as a 4 shows per week event and has now grown to 8 shows within the week. GIMC is probably the only festival we are aware of the world over that fuses fitness, aerobics with fashion, music, urban culture all in one event. It has become a platform for social transformation and inclusivity."

Now in its 7th year, GIMC is currently ranked as one of the top 10 festivals in all of Africa. It's a remarkable achievement that Thapelo doesn't take for granted.

"For GIMC to be ranked as one of the top festivals to attend in Africa is commendable and highly flattering because when we started the festival none of us saw it coming. Yes we can argue that it was always conceived to be a big regional event, but none of us can certainly say that's what it would result in."

GIMC is highly ranked because of its diversity. Which other event do know you that fuses music, fashion, fitness, culture all in one event without breaking a sweat?!

"GIMC is an event where you will see an 20-year-old attending as well as a 70 year old. It cuts across generations, something that generally gives marketers sleepless nights, as it’s never easy to speak to such a wide range age group and varying LSM’s. With GIMC we have been able to achieve it all in one platform/ festival."

We took a moment to find out what he was most proud of as far as the festival was concerned. He was buzzing as he reflected on how he built the biggest festival in the country from the ground up. 
"I am most proud that we have been able to take a crazy idea from concept to fruition and in the process build a value chain that benefits so many companies directly and indirectly. The benefit of staging the festival to the greater Gaborone economy has grown ten fold since inception. We are able to sell out lodges, hire each and every bouncer in Gaborone, sell out beverages in bottle stores just to mention a few. I am an SMME developer to the core and when I see us having impact in assisting the growth of SMME’s I go to bed a happy man."

Of course we wanted to pick his brain on the best local artists he has worked with in the past and he was as diplomatic as ever. 

"The list is endless having worked with almost all of them in Botswana. Yes I do have ones that I enjoy working with because of their professionalism, but l'd rather not name them, GIMC is such an influential event, I'd rather those who are found lacking we build them as opposed to shame them. The Botswana music scene is small so we must have all hands on deck to help build it.


....And the hottest artist in Botswana right now.

"Botswana has a lot of hot upcoming talent, I would single out Han C, though not entirely new but I think he can sustain a long music career better than most."

Although the festival has hosted many of Africa's greatest talents, a few regional artists had left a lasting impression on him.

"We have worked with a lot of heavy weights across the region, but guys that have given us good value for money are Black Coffee, DJ Fresh, Cassper Nyovest, Riky Rick from South Africa, Zimbabwe certainly the king of Rhumba Jah Prayzah, from Nigeria Basketmouth and Jonathan Butler from Los Angels (USA)."

Jah Prayzah

On a serious note we wanted to know more about how we as the attendants could support the festival and help make this year's edition a success.

"We are extremely appreciative of support we get from Batswana and continue to ask the same. Purchasing tickets in advance always helps no doubt, but we don't plan our festival necessarily based on pre ticket sales.

We put out a budget to execute the festival on the basis of zero attendance. This means by the time the festival takes place we would have paid for all whats required so that we don't run the risk of letting our patrons down. It is amazing that since inception in 2014 we have hosted over 300 artists and none of them have failed to turn up.

We have had artists comes from USA, Canada, Sweden, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and more, none of them have failed to show up. This shows the artists value the platform we have as well as our professional ways of dealing with them. "

Black Motion and Tips Shampoo

So the major support we ask from all those that come through our gates is to keep purchasing our tickets from official outlets and not purchase fake tickets. Purchasing fake tickets not only robs us, but it robs the value chain we have created from the artists, hotels, airlines, tax collector, technical companies, taxi’s etc." 

As we wrapped up, he was as optimistic as ever and assured us the the event would indeed take place this year no matter what. 

'To make up for all the lost weekends during the lockdowns, we are going to make it one big turn up, a real carnival. See you on the other side. Keep hope alive, we shall emerge from all this stronger and wiser. 

For all updates and developments in the lead up to the festival follow the GIMC's social media pages.

Gaborone International Music and Culture Week

Facebook: Gaborone International Music and Culture Week
Twitter: @bwGIMC
Instagram: Gimc Fest 

The Founder and Organiser: Thapelo Fish Pabalinga who is doing great stuff here in Botswana and well worth a follow himself

Facebook: Fish Pabalinga
Instagram: Fish Pabalinga
Twitter: Pabalinga Fish 

Stay tuned to TSWAlebs because not only are we going to support the Festival of course, we will have artist interviews, back stage peeks and who knows? Maybe some free tickets just for you.