Happy New Year Luie!

If you've never seen anyone handle their instrument like Charlie Patton might have, this musician from Botswana is incredible--I think I can safely say I've never really seen anyone play a guitar before:

Youtube user Bokete7, (who shot the video), told me he is: "Ronnie Moipolai from Kopong village in the Kweneng district 50 km west of the capitol Gaborone. He is 29 years old and goes around the shebeens selling and playing his songs for 5Pula each (80dollarcents). He learned guitar from his now late father, has 3 brothers that also play guitar (KB is one of them), has also a big sister and plenty of kids in the yard. Nobody has a formal job and his mother sells Chibuku beer and firewood they get from the bush trying to make ends meet."


  1. That was completely awesome. I love music like this and got into it when I first heard the Jolly Boys about 15 years ago. I like how the guitar has 5.00 markered onto it as if he bought it at a pawn shop or flea market or something.

  2. That’s really cool and all, but did the artist give their consent for their work to be posted on the internet? Is there any kind of link so that I can donate eighty cents for watching? It seems kind of morally gray to publish the work of an artist who is trying to make a living selling their art. I get that the publicity is probably only going to be a good thing, but it seems like Ronnie should be given an opportunity to profit more directly.

    1. Chibuku is the “Beer of Good Cheer” in Zimbabwe. Chunky and sour, it is crushed sorghum and millet with a 7 day fermentation – and no filtering. How I miss it.

  3. Nice thing about being a self-taught performer is that when you don’t know something’s impossible you can just go ahead and do it…

  4. Brilliant. Eat you heart out Eddie Van Halen.

    So many talented people around the world and only a handful get any recognition.

  5. Also works well with the ‘Thirsty Trees’ of the previous post providing the rhythm section.

  6. I’ve been playing the guitar for well over 50 years now, not nearly as well or as imaginatively. I have never seen anyone play like that. The technique and the music are both wonderful. Imagine how it would sound on a really good instrument.


  7. Can someone not make a plan and send him a new guitar. Can you image what she could do with it!!!

    I’m from South Africa. I can make a plan to get it delivered if someone makes the donation. Send a mail to diricia@gmail.com

    1. A consultant came from UK, to consider a recording deal with Ronnie and actually bought him the new guitar locally, we are still waiting for their plans.

  8. He played it left hand / But made it too far…

    The back-of-the-hand flourishes are especially nice.

  9. Somebody–Ry?–get this man a recording contract. Love the casual attitude of the background fellow.

  10. I think JBL is right. It sounds very like an open E. A great way to play. I am reminded of the way Ted Hawkins used an open C (I seem to remember) and could produce sweet sweet music.
    Will any BB reader out there remix this before Moby gets is vegan hands on it?

  11. Fantastic! Open tunings FTW. And the guitar sounds just fine; it’s not the instrument, it’s the feeling you put into it what matters.

  12. So two things are needed, a tip jar, and a good guitar.
    #12 has already volunteered to get the guitar to him.
    Anyone have one lying around? Trade guitar for more music?
    Otherwise, ebay with tip jar proceeds. I’m guessing if asked nicely the UPS charitible foundation might toss in free shipping. I am confident boingboing readers can pull this together.

  13. brilliant. if you enjoyed that, there’s another great one by a south african guy here:

    unfortunately so short

  14. It IS beautiful, but it’s not all that mind-blowing when you consider that plenty of folks play mountain dulcimer in the same way, except in this case the guitar is a lot bigger and chromatic. A lot of the flipping of his left hand around is just showmanship– all he’s doing in those cases is strumming an open chord and playing the melody note on the lowest string.

      1. uh, that would be the other way around.
        More like… “does anybody hear how this music influenced Paul Simon”

        So, what ever happened with this? I agree, buying him a guitar might not be what he wants. It’s kind of aloof for us to think there’s something wrong with his guitar. But i am interested in setting up a way for Ronnie to be compensated for the joy his music is bringing to all the people over Youtube and other venues…

  15. I echo that! Would that Boing Boing launches a micro donation system where we can all chip in to artists like this. The problem is getting the funds to the artist of course. But this is the internet – there must be a way! His personal details are already provided. Imagine the joy and surprise of this struggling artists when suddenly receiving a reward from all us thankful listeners!

    I get that being highlighted here increases likelyhood that Moipolai will be picked up by a record label, tv team, booked for a show and so on. I hope that happens. But micro donations would be a good complement. It feels right. BB seems like the perfect place to start experimenting with that!

  16. I am all for giving to Mr.Mopoli but I think that giving a new guitar is a mistake. I think he is a very intelligent person, and can decide for himself what he needs. We should send money instead. Besides, if he does need a new guitar, he can purchase several for the price of a guitar in the states(and conversely, he cannot sell a guitar that we give him for it’s full value).
    Also, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZgAfsplLxI is a vido of the camo-capped gentleman doing nearly the same thing. I suggest the donation go to the entire family, and not just this one individual.

    93,000veiws*$.80= $74,000

  17. Yes, Jeff Healey used to play over the top like that…RIP Jeff. Also, I’m thinkin’ $74,000 ought to keep the whole family stocked in whatever is makin’ their eyes so fried, for quite a while!

  18. Having grown up in Botswana, these sounds, sights and faces take me back.

    For the record, Chibuku is essentially fermeted sorghum porridge, comes in what looks like a milk carton, and guarantees a lazy afternoon under a straw hat in the shade of an amarula tree.

  19. amazing… cant really think of anything else to say…
    just one thing though… on the text it is said to be a man playing but it really looks like a woman, in fact, it is a woman. or is it not?

  20. I bought a guitar 2 years ago hoping i’d study classical. Took the guitar home and attempted strumming old favorites. But Ouch!..my carpal tunnel gets activated with the hand positioning!
    Music store does not accept returns ..so i have the brand new guitar in its case sitting in the corner.

    After coming across Ronnie the other day, i suddenly knew who to hand over my guitar to..!

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