Lesotho. The only country in the world landlocked by a single country, South Africa, and the country that raised me. Growing up, we were surrounded by music, but little of it came from within our borders, especially when it came to contemporary music. In fact, the only group that gained any kind of real prominence outside our borders was Sankomota, made up of musicians like Frank Leepa, Moss Nkofu, Black Jesus, Moruti Selate, Tšepo Tšola and Pitso Sera. In more recent years, there have been rappers like Hymphatic Thabs and Kommanda Obbs, musicians like Bhudaza and Tsepo Tsola as a solo artist, but they are still few, and far between, which is why I was thrilled when an email about a new musician, Morena Leraba, landed in my inbox.
Who Is Morena Leraba?
It is warming and fascinating that a musician and shepherd from Ha Mojela in the Mafeteng district would somehow produce music with producers and musicians from: Germany – Fritz Holscher as well as The Freerangers (German/South African band out of Cape Town); the US – Kashaka; Brazil – Subterrâneo Recordsoficial; and South Africa, DJ Spoko and Andre Geldenhuys. This is especially the case since Morena Leraba’s music is rooted in traditional Sesotho words, thoughts and culture, including Famo.
It all started with filmmaker Carl McMillan meeting Morena Leraba in the village of Ha Nchela, Berea district, where Leraba had moved for work as a shepherd. He then introduced Leraba to The Freerangers who collaborated with him on Do You Know Lesotho?. What has also helped Leraba’s career as a musician, beyond the introductions and the attention from his first single Bojeta with Holscher and Lithebera with Brookyn-based Kashaka has been a short documentary about him by Blacknation Video Network’s Thulasizwe Simelane. The documentary both captures the life of shepherds like Leraba as well as insight into his music and its roots.
Going Beyond Lesotho’s Borders
The latest single to come out featuring Leraba is Imphepo, produced by Brazil-based group, Trap Funk & Alivio, which also features South Africa’s Mankind. I’m not a fan of ‘trap music’ purely because the beats and the flow often sound the same but it’s a dope track.
He has also recently been featured on South Africa’s Spoek Mathambo’s new album Mzansi Beat Code (I’m a big fan of Spoek’s music) and performed at AFRIQUE(S), organised by L’Afrique c’est Chic World in Paris, which played host to an array of African artists, poets and writers like Abd Al Malik from Congo, Véronique Kanor from Martinique, Sando Ndedi Ndolo Jacques from Cameroon, Lunik Grio’ from Côte d’Ivoire.
A friend recently commented that, when you listen to Sesotho music, you can hear the roots of rap and spoken word. The fact that, from a production perspective, Leraba fits with everything from Electronica, House and Hip Hop bares testament to this. I am hoping that this is the start of a career, from the village to world stages, that opens both his horizons as well as exposes the world to what Lesotho can bring to the global music industry.
Khotso! Pula! Nala!