From jail bird to street singer

From jail bird to street singer

Staff Reporter

Windhoek-With little education and landing in jail on two different occasions, Joel ’Katopi’ Alfred decided to change his life and started singing.

While briefly in jail for a second time in 2012, Alfred developed an interest in a guitar belonging to a fellow inmate and then learnt how to play it.

After Katopi, who only has Grade 4, was released from jail he refused to follow his bad old ways. He bought himself a guitar and polished up his skills of guitar playing. Today, Katopi has three albums to his name.

Katopi can be spotted in the central business district where he performs with fellow group members – his younger sister Maria Alfred, 26, and Gideo ‘Kizon’ Mutilyane, 23. The group also performs in various areas around Windhoek and towns outside the capital city.

The group attracts people who care to listen to Oshiwambo folklore music which carries advice or inspiring messages. Members of the public throw money into their bowl in appreciation.
They also play gospel and Shaambo/traditional music inspired by two Aawambo artists Kangwee Keenyal late Tate Kwela.

“After I was released from jail, I didn’t want to go back but gave a good picture of myself. I was interested in playing the guitar, so I bought myself one. I started performing at home and decided to go outside and was encouraged to continue playing,” said Katopi, who started out solo and then had several people joining him.

The group lives at Goreangab informal settlement and travel to the CBD each morning and stay there till late in the afternoon. From the money they get they produce CDs, which they sell in various towns across the country. They also use the money to buy food, and on their well-being, as well as of their immediate family.

Katopi’s younger sister Maria, who has a Grade 10 certificate, said it is difficult to find a job. She tried working as a bar tender but found herself getting a lower wage than what she had agreed to.

“I have a child and with the small income I support my child in the north. I save money for about four months then buy and send home,” she said. Mutilyane advised fellow Namibians to try several things for survival. “And be content with what you have because a big heart always brings many problems, so guide and protect yourself from unnecessary problems,” he said.

Katopi said he also assists fellow artists in recording a few tracks in his recording studio called Iixuna Kombanda yeevi, in Outapi.

Katopi said they are available to perform at private and family functions.

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