Creative Nestlings: Please introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Morena Leraba: Dumelang! I’m Morena Leraba from Ha Mojela located in the south of the Lesotho capital, Maseru. I am a musician and a herder, I fuse my traditional Sesotho lyrics and folk music with modern electronic sound. My music narrates stories and happenings around my village and me. When I’m in my village, I’m a herder – something I’ve been doing from a young age.
CN: Are you based in the rural area still?
ML: Yes, I’m currently based in the village of Ha Nchela in Berea. I get to leave the village when I have recording sessions and or performances.
CN: People always say there are no creatives in the rural areas, how true is that?
ML: I’m of a perception that creativity is everywhere, perhaps, it’s simply different here in the rural areas. A filmmaker based here in Lesotho was curious to hear my lyrics on modern electronic beats and that’s how I started. There’s so much creativity in the rural areas. In most cases, it’s naturally inspired. People weave and design here.
CN: How do we showcase it to the world?
ML: I’m afraid the main challenge in the rural areas is communicating with the outside world, which I think is shifting gradually. For instance, many people in remote villages in Lesotho now have phones and Internet access. Exhibiting our creativity mainly comes when foreigners visit here. In my case, a Lesotho-based filmmaker Carl McMillan heard my sound and connected me with producers in Cape Town and they helped create several platforms for my music online. The Internet can help rural artists and creatives to a larger degree.
CN: How did you get into music?
ML: As a herder, one spends a lot of time looking after cattle or sheep, to keep ourselves entertained we sing. Many of us are musicians naturally. I was very fortunate to meet those producers from Cape Town and they came here to Lesotho. The fell in love with my sound and I started doing music seriously since 2015.
CN: What’s your sound like? What inspires you musically?
M L: I’m inspired by the traditional Famo music that I grew up listening to. A normal band consists of someone playing the “accordion”, a drummer, a singer or poet and some traditional instruments. My sound is new, I bring the traditional Famo elements but my beats are electronic and modern. When people in my village listen to my music, they enjoy and understand my lyrics but many ask: “Where is the accordion?”. They really appreciate the creativity in blending traditional lyrics with modern beats.
Many Famo artists from Mafeteng inspire me, their originality and the way they recite stories is amazing. Sesotho language is very creative when it comes to poetry and music. This inspires me. I’m also inspired when I find a new instrumental as I can figure out the rhythm and words in my head.
CN: How has your music been received?
ML: Honestly, people from around the globe really appreciate my music. Several radio stations in Europe and the US are playing my music. People from my village relate more because I sing only in Sesotho, they’re familiar with most of the stories and issues I’m addressing. Also, there are many Basotho people who live outside Lesotho that are loving my sound. My music is recognized in Europe, the US and Brazil through a few collaborations I’ve done. They might not understand the lyrics but they’re charmed by the sound.
CN: You have been traveling and how has that been?
ML: I was invited to perform in Paris, France. It was a unique experience as it was my first time in Europe and people’s attitude towards the arts in general is really amazing. In March I performed at AFRIQUE(S) and Festival Banleues Bleues.
AFRIQUE(S) is organized by L’Afrique c’est Chic World at La Maison De L’Afrique, I shared that platform with Abd Al Malik from Congo, Véronique Kanor from Martinique, Sango Ndedi Ndolo Jacques from Cameroon, Lunik Grio’ from Côte d’Ivoire and other great poets and writers from Paris. AFRIQUE(S) was a great success with the collaboration of Les Maisons du Voyage (Groupe Maison de la Chine), Les Printemps de Poètes and Présence Africaine Editions.
CN: When does the collaboration come out?
ML: Through AFRIQUE(S), I was introduced to Lunik Grio’, a Côte d’Ivoire Paris-based rapper. Initially, I was going to have another collaboration with Trap Funk & Alivio from Brazil and I decided to have Lunik on this one. We recorded at Zarma Studios in Paris. In May our new song, Prose unie, is currently being mastered and is going to be released by PRØSPECT in Paris, Trap Funk & Alivio is under Subterrâneo Records in Brazil.
CN: What you’re working on at the moment?
ML: We’re wrapping up a 5 song EP with Kashaka from Brooklyn, NYC and will feature Spoek Mathambo and Manteiga from BATUK. Soon I’ll be releasing “Shongo Foo” a single with South Africa’s Bacardi House producer DJ Spoko and Andre Geldenhuys from Fantasma. Our team is already planning my debut album. Therefore, it’s an EP, a couple of singles coming soon and an album to be released in 2018. Again, with upcoming collaborations and performances in Europe, I’ll surely perform in other festivals around the world.
CN: What do you think young African creatives need right now?
ML: We need to realize Africa has a very rich culture and there are many stories to share. As young creatives, we need to change this whole approach where we always need to export our arts outside Africa in a bid to be recognized. We need to build here. The world needs to come to Africa in order to see what we have.
CN: What’s the creative industry like in your city?
ML: It’s still growing and many young people are taking an initiative instead of waiting for help and support from elsewhere. There’s The HUB in Morija and they’re doing so much to mentor, inspire and showcase talents of many young Basotho. Alliance Français de Maseru is also helping many young creatives in Lesotho. We collaborated with them when screening the documentary, “Morena Leraba – Blending Our Stories with Modern Sound” by Blacknation Media from Johannesburg. There’s also Open Studio and it’s just been launched. I’m going to collaborate with them as well. The whole scene is steadily growing and people are also looking outside the country for further inspiration and ideas.
CN: Who are some of the creatives we should know that side?
ML: I’ll mention here some of the people I’m working with. There are still many creatives you’d want to meet here but these ones are at the forefront, I’d say. When Blacknation Media was here to shoot the documentary, “Morena Leraba – Blending Our Stories with Modern Sound”, we collaborated with Sobukwe Mapefane who is a photographer and Lerato Molisana who is a writer. Their contribution was significant.
Mery Mpho Hyöky is another amazing photographer and I’m also going to collaborate with her on an upcoming exhibition. Justice Kalebe, Napo Thahane and Motebang Moeketsi are photographers as well and their portrayal of Lesotho’s landscapes and culture is utterly charming. In film, you’d surely want to meet Sejake Mats’ela, Sehlabaka Rampeta, Jeremiah Mosese, Carl McMillan, Matooane Nkofo and Kaizer Mats’umunyane. You’d also want to have a conversation with Relebohile Manosa and Mpho Sephelane of Open Studio, which is a fast-growing creative platform in Lesotho.
Lineo Segoete and Lerato Bereng are creatives you’d want to have a conversation with when here in Lesotho and their work in internationally recognized. In fashion, I’d mention Kuena Moshoeshoe, Thabo Makhetha and House of Thethana. Bonono Merchants are also changing the fashion scene in Lesotho by blending traditional elements with the new trends. I’m going to collaborate with them as well as they want to add their style in Morena Labara’s attire. Here, I can also mention Thabo Malefetsane of GYR, who is also from my home district of Mafeteng. The good thing again is that these individuals are inspiring many young people.
CN: What advice do you have to your fellow young Africans?
ML: I’m afraid that many young Africans and creatives in general are aware of a shift in the arts whereby the world can recognize us; however, we need to build platforms here. In order to see this whole thing growing and maturing, we need to build platforms for future generations so that they grow up familiar with these things. When we have our own platforms, we’re at liberty to tell our stories how we want. We’re free to express ourselves. Premiering the documentary “Morena Leraba – Blending Our Stories with Modern Sound”, we collaborated with Blacknation Media and Creative Nestlings at the J&B Hive and that’s how Morena Leraba was introduced to many young creatives in Johannesburg.
CN: What does creativity means to you?
ML: Creativity to me means innovation. It means a solution and introducing the new. It means new viable approaches. For instance, in music we use language. While a considerable number of young musicians in Lesotho are beginning to use Sesotho language in their music, most still read Sesotho literature and re-utter what others have said and there’s no creativity in that. Musicians undermine listeners by singing the already known idioms and proverbs and I don’t find that to be creative. Creativity means invention, remodeling or reshaping.
Listen to Morena’s music on SoundCloud