I could not believe my luck when I found this album; “Lesotho sings”, songs from the kingdom of Lesotho, a mountainous country that is completely surrounded by South Africa. There are a few  recordings by Hugh Tracey that were recorded during his fieldwork in 1957 known to me,  but I must admit that not many records from Lesotho have crossed my path before…

lesotho sings cover

“Lesotho Sings” consists of a collection of hymns and folk songs as sung by The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta.

The Basotho, like their fellows the Zulus, the Xhosa and Tswana, love to sing! The Negro Spirituals of the deep South, and the natural harmonies of the African in his own habitat, share a bond, indicating a common heritage intensified by the deep felt religious convictions of the African folk at heart.

They sing of their honoured founder, Moshoeshoe; they sing well-loved hymns from their wide repertoire, they sing in English and in Latin, as well as in their sister languages, Tswana and Xhosa and of course in their own Lesotho tongue.

lesotho sings label

Thesela e Mocha

a spirited call to the Basotho to exult in song and jubilation in honour of the young king, son of Moshoeshoe the Great, founder of the Basotho nation


a Latin song of praise to God

Tlong Thaka

a fervent call to all Basotho youth to rise and exult in the natural beauties of the land

Sala Sentle

a Tswana farewell to one’s beloved
alex gwinsta foto

Excerpts from the original liner notes of “Lesotho Sings” The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta–private pressing Lesotho

…and another excellent compilation of lesiba and sekhankula music, “Lesotho Calling”

The lesiba is a blown mouthbow, whereas members of this family of instruments are struck or plucked. At well over a meter in length, it is among the longest. This ancient instrument of the Khoi people, known as gora was once widespread throughout present day South Africa, as it was readily adopted by several newly arrived Bantu peoples –called ughwali by the Xhosa, kwadi by the Pedi, lesiba by the Sotho. But only the lesiba survives today.

Michael Baird & Dada Moqasa

Dada Moqasa & Michael Baird

‘the beauty of this instrument immediately knocked me out. A meditative sound, almost abstract but definitely breathing, an array of overtones, music of the ancestors, music of birds and mountains, a sound that could only come from Africa’ . Words by Michael Baird who recorded what he found on his trip through Lesotho in 2006; lesiba players and another herdsman’s instrument, the sekhankula bow and some old-style Sotho concertina.

Molalehli Matima with his lesiba Molalehli Matima with his lesiba

Tselane Ngoanak’eby Molalehli Matima

Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba

Ntate Nkuebe balha lehlanya “Mr Nkuebe running away from the madman”by Sehloho Lebusa

The title comes from an expression used by some players to announce themselves before starting to play ‘Move aside, I’m the man!’

Another herdsman’s instrument of Lesotho is the sekhankula, also known as maohorong depending on which district. It is a musical bow that is played with a bow stroking the strings and is widely distributed throughout South Africa. A curved stick or sometimes a straight steel rod, of the type used for reinforcing concrete, is put into a 5 –liter paraffin can through the top end, which is open having been removed by sawing and the stick/rod is jammed in place. The string is a length of tin iron wire, which is attached to the top of the stick and fixed to the outside of the far corner of the can; the can acts as a resonator, sometimes with an opening cut in the bottom and small holes punctured in the sides.

Mocholoko satane “Graduate of witchcraft by Motsoetla Letsie.

Motsoetla plays instrumental only, no singing. At the beginning of this track, we can hear him rubbing his bow across the top of his instrument a few times where he had his resin reserve. This is something all the sekhankula players do before commencing a piece.

Samuel Tolosi en Motsoetla Letsie with his sekhankula Samuel Tolosi and Motsoetla Letsie with a sekhankula

Excerpts from the original liner notes and photographs courtesy of “Lesotho calling” SWP 033 http://www.swp-records.com

Recommended listening

“Lesotho calling” SWP 033

lesotho country cover

see Lesotho kids singing in a traditional smoke hut

Basotho young men and kids are singing traditional songs.

Filmed in nightshot in a traditional basotho housse ( full of smoke) during the Afropeaks pan african mountain expedition in Lesotho.


9 thoughts on “sounds & Basotho songs from Lesotho

  1. I wish to get the cd of of Ruthla Masupha No2 i got it in cassette is no longer play all songs.
    I also look for Ditshukudu No5 i like all old seSotho songs.

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