Growing up in the village of Ha-Mojela in Mafeteng district Lesotho, the artist Teboho Mochaoa better known as Morena Leraba was exposed to a variety of music. From kwaito and South Africa’s traditional music to the alternative and rock music his older brother preferred, along with the sounds of Lesotho. “Famo and traditional Sesotho music came natural; it was more of a village thing. You’ll know the songs subconsciously,” Morena Leraba says of the sound that evolved in the 1920s when Basotho men were migrant workers in South African mines.
Listening to these genres he always imagined mixing them with Sesotho music.”I told Carl McMillan, a filmmaker friend based in Lesotho, that I could actually fuse traditional lyrics with electronic music and he was very interested,” Morena Leraba remembers. Through Carl he met the Germany-based producer Fritz Holscher in 2014 which resulted in the release of his first single ‘Bojete’.
Working as a shepherd in his home village, Leraba’s lyrics are rooted in the folklore and other stories that are passed on by older generations. “Morena Leraba is an alter ego confined partly by rural and village perspectives; hence, he tells village stories and everyday happenings. From Basotho folklore and mythology, herbalism, witchcraft and other norms that define us as Bantu or Basotho people,“ Morena Leraba explains.
From the beginning his music has crossed borders and led to collaborations with musicians from around the world. The release of ‘Bojete’ gained him the attention of Brooklyn-based producer Kashaka resulting in the single ‘Lithebera’. This led to him collaborating with Brazil’s TrapFunk&Alivio alongside Joburg’s Mankind on the single ‘Impepho’. This put him on the radar of Spoek Mathambo which led to the two working together on the track ‘Thapelo ea’ which featured on Spoek’s 2017 album ‘Mzansi Beat Code’.
His upcoming EP will feature productions by Spoek Mathambo, Sibot and TrapFunk&Alivio and sees him working alongside Xitsonga rapper Sho Madjozi. “With this EP, I’m further introducing this fusion of traditional Sesotho lyrics with electronic music. I honestly want to feature Sho Madjozi because she’s creative. By both bringing two South African, somehow related, indigenous languages, I’m confident we’ll deliver something new,” Morena Leraba says of the collaboration.
Currently wrapping up a 5-song EP with Kashaka featuring Spoek Mathambo and Manteiga from BATUK, Morena Leraba will also be releasing a single with DJ Spoko and Andre Geldenhuys from Fantasma in the near future, with other future projects to include the likes of Jumping Back Slash, Sibot and Fela Gucci of FAKA. In August he will be performing at AfriSki Winter Festival in Lesotho and then preparing for shows in Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.
Morena Leraba debut album is also in the works. With an interest in different languages and cultures it will include artists from around the globe. “I’m going to feature artists from Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, France and the US. I’m recording with Tumi Matlala of Bassmint Studios in Johannesburg and a couple of engineers, including Riccardo Benigno. DJ Spoko is also going to be on board. I totally need their guidance and direction,” Morena Leraba says of the album.
Crossing language barriers and borders, Morena Leraba’s music bridges the traditional with the contemporary, ensuring that the rich cultural traditions of Lesotho continue to live on and evolve. “Morena Leraba is forever a shepherd and musician,” Leraba notes.