Encountering an enigma: The shepherd musician fusing electronic Sotho sound

Encountering an enigma: The shepherd musician fusing electronic Sotho sound

This shepherd is taking SeSotho hip-hop across the world.

Sesotho beautiful
Supplied, Beautiful News

Morena Leraba steps on stage, a Basotho hat on his head, blanket draped around his shoulders, and raises the heavy wooden stick in his right hand. What may seem like an elaborate costume is actually the musician at his most authentic. Leraba is a sheep and goat herder from Mafeteng in Lesotho. Standing in front of a crowd of screaming fans, nothing about him seems to make sense. Yet when he begins to sing, everything does. 

Herding animals is a rite of passage in Lesotho, initiating youngsters into adulthood. In the silence of the mountains, Leraba learnt to recognise the call of the cattle, the whistle of the wind, and the power of his own voice. “Being a shepherd, you are alone most of the time,” he says. “Singing becomes your meditative space.” Just over two years ago, he began experimenting with famo – a genre of Sotho music created by mineworkers – by layering on rap verses and hip-hop beats. In an attempt to get a leg in the music industry, Leraba would take a bus to Cape Town and reach out to producers. He often came home with nothing. But along the way, people began to notice his extraordinary sonic fusions.

Leraba has since made a name for himself creating modern famo music. “I feel so honoured to be able to borrow from something younger generations might have considered boring,” he says. With reggae, rock, hip-hop, and folk influencing his sound, Leraba has played at Design Indaba, AfroPunk, and Endless Daze alongside a number of established South African artists. “For me it was like, is this really happening?” he says. “It’s been humbling.” Though Leraba may have come from the mountains of Lesotho to grace global stages, this is not a rags to riches story. His dual identity as a herder and musician is his wealth. People are influenced by the multiplicity of worlds they navigate. When we embrace our diversity, we discover a song of true beauty. 

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