Sotho Sounds
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Sotho Sounds

Brampton, England, United Kingdom

Brampton, England, United Kingdom
Band World




"Local Band Set to Perform in Denmark"

MASERU — Sotho-Sound, a little-known local music band, has been invited to perform at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) 11 in Denmark in October.
“We will be showcasing our music at the WOMEX 11 in Copenhagen, Denmark from 26 – 30 October 2011,” band member Richard Mohale said.
WOMEX is an international music support and development project based in Berlin.
Its main event is an exposition held annually in different locations throughout Europe.
It integrates a trade fair, showcases, conferences, film market, networking sessions and awards.
This year’s expo will be held in Copenhagen.
Mohale said this year they beat over 1 000 bands from different countries in an online bid for a place to perform before thousands of music industry professionals at the festival.
“The past years we were invited but this year we had to compete and this proves that we made an impact the last time we performed at the festival,” Mohale said.
He however said Sotho-Sound is battling to raise funds for the trip and is appealing for assistance from local companies.
The 11-member band which is based at Malea-lea in Mafeteng encompasses traditional dances and music.
Sotho-Sound makes musical instruments from scrap metal, tyres, wire and wood.
Mohale told Xpress People that the group, which was founded in 1997 by eight shepherds, has made their international mark in exposing Lesotho.
“We started out as a small group of young men wanting to stay off the streets and just make music. We are self-taught musicians,” Mohale said.
He added, “Our journey saw success when we were discovered by the manager of Malea-lea Lodge who invited us to entertain tourists.
“Then in 2003 one tourist from the United Kingdom saw us and was impressed by our type of music.”
Mohale said the tourist then connected them to the World of Music, Arts and Dance international festival in 2003.
Sotho-Sound made their first visit to England the following year.
They have also been invited to conduct workshops for children in Australia on how to make musical instruments from raw materials.
The all-male group uses use guitars, drums as well as Sesotho traditional instruments like Lesiba and Mamokhong.
“We decided to keep the band an all-male outfit because we felt if we included women we might lose our focus,” Joseph Chaka, another member told Xpress People.
He said their music is based on life experiences.
“We find a way to share our songs with the world beyond the mountains. Our music is based on our life experiences,” Chaka said.
Although they have been around since 1997, the group was only recognised this year and is a partner to the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival on the development and exchange of the artistic element of the festival.
Sotho-Sound believe their music can unite individuals from different languages, cultures and generations. - Sunday Express

"Where Scrap Metal Makes Clean Music"

For struggling musicians in many parts of Africa, affording a set of instruments is the ultimate achievement.

It is common to find children constructing instruments from household items like pipes or even corn sticks. Virtually anything can be used to create a wind instrument, even a can of soda.

However it is one thing to find musicians in the back streets playing with improvised instruments, but it is quite another to find the same motley sounds performed at some of the biggest music festivals in the world.

Sotho Sounds have defied the odds to create their music from virtually rubbish. Their instruments are all recycled and crafted from junk, tyres, wire, tin cans, wood and metal.

This is a fascinating group of six musicians and two dancers comprising shepherds from Malealea village on Lesotho’s Maluluti mountains. They are self-taught musicians who have found a way of making scrap metal sing and turning junk into fantastic funk.

This raw innovation is not a new trend in African music. The Congolese street-funk band Konono No. 1 have become world renowned for combining the likembe (thumb piano) with their Do-It-Yourself percussion instruments made out of items salvaged a from a second hand market for car parts.

With hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, to makeshift percussion made from pans, pots and car parts, this Kinshasa-based band has created its unique sound called Congotronics.

While Konono No. 1 has a history going back to the 1960s, the story of the Basotho outfit is relatively contemporary. It began in 1997 while working as herd boys in the highlands of the mountain kingdom where most of the population consists of subsistence farmers.

“We started as a small group of young men wanting to stay off any trouble and just make music.”

In their spare time, surrounded by nature, they began carefully crafting instruments from wood, tin, scrap metal, car parts, wires and even a kitchen sink.

The homemade instruments include a series of four string tin guitars, clunky metal one string fiddles and oil tin drums.

Pure sounds

“I got some branches from a tree because I needed two sticks to support the wire and the sink that I had cut up,” says Sotho Sounds drummer Tumelo Mpokoane.

“After that, I took a car tyre and cut it from my drum sticks. This gave the drum a good sound.”

These instruments are fused with heartfelt vocals, shrill bird whistles, an accordion and a stomping gumboot dance.

Their sound is pure and organic. They are also renowned for garish costumes with hats, colourful wigs, the traditional Basotho blanket and sunglasses, an appearance almost as spectacular as the mountains of the kingdom.

The seven-member group composes music and makes instruments in between looking after animals. “We decided to keep the band an all male outfit because we felt that we would lose our focus if we included women,” is the cheeky confession from group member Josepha Chaka .

Chaka plays the one-stringed fiddle (qwadinyana), accordion and vocals while Khothatso Ranoosi is on guitar (katara) and vocals. Another vocalist Paseka Mohale is also the group’s percussionist, Risenga Makondo plays drums, Tankiso Pita is on bass guitar and vocals with Tseliso Rantho on lead guitar.

Chaka says the one string on his fiddle came from the residue of a burnt tyre and the improvised guitars are played using the fishing lines for strings.

From scrap

Their songs are inspired by a variety of influences: gospel, township jive from neighbouring South Africa, hip-hop, reggae and traditional stories. This groovy kind of indigenous junk-punk has won this group from the tiny kingdom admirers since they first hit the international stage.

Their first performance contract was playing at a tourist lodge in their hometown of Malealea. It was here that a tourist visiting Lesotho from the UK heard the group perform and was immediately impressed by their unique style and appearance. This chance encounter led to the group’s first visit to the World of Music, Arts and Dance (Womad) International Festival in 2004.

The next year they travelled to The Perth International Arts Festival in Australia where they also held workshops to illustrate their amazing innovation on creating instruments from scrap.

Last year, the Sotho Sounds was invited to one of southern Africa’s biggest musical events, the Bush Fire Festival in Switzerland where they performed on the same stage as giants like Freshly Ground, Lira, and Ringo. They also performed a collaboration with traditional musician Risenga Makondo of South Africa, whose music was part of the soundtrack to the Hollywood blockbuster film, The Matrix. Makondo, who is rooted in the traditions of his Venda people, has earned a reputation for creating instruments from objects like plastic pipes and oilcans.

This year has been another successful one for Sotho Sounds who have often lamented that their music doesn’t get the same respect at home that they do on their international tours.

They have just appeared at the World Music Expo (Womex), in Denmark attended by more than 2,000 music industry representatives from 98 countries.

World music

Singer Paseka Mohale says this year they beat over 1,000 bands from different countries in an online bid for a place to perform before thousands of music industry professionals at Womex, one of the most important professional markets for world music.

“In the past, we have been invited in the event, but this year we had to compete and this proves that we crated an impact the last time we performed at the festival,” says Mohale.

There were 36 acts from around the world selected by the festival jury to perform at Womex last month.

Their debut album Sotho Sounds Malealea, was released in 2003 with the help of Risenga Makondo, the UK based South African musician, who produced the set and got it released through the Womad Foundation in the UK.

“We find a way to share our songs with the world beyond the mountains. Our music is based on our life experiences,” says Chaka. The album is a collection of different uplifting sounds in Basotho, from the spiritual Jerusalem to an instrumental piece called Lesholu.

“They listen to a lot of contemporary South African music and this also plays an influence in their music which is a cross between the traditional and the contemporary,” says Makondo

He is disappointed by the attitude of many Africans towards their own musicians. “The Sotho Sounds is not very appreciated in Africa because what they play is not pop African music with electricity and saxophones,” he says.

The Sotho Sounds surely know how to make scrap sing and turn total junk into fantastic funk. For inventiveness, musicality and sheer determination, this exuberant group wins hands down. - Africa Review

"BBC Radio 3 World Routes Womex"

Sotho Sounds perform acoustically for BBC Radio 3 outside the WOMEX trade centre, Copenhagen. - BBC Radio 3

"Riding Through Lesotho"

Most intriguing are Sotho Sounds, the resident band made up of goatherds playing “junk funk” — a lively fusion of reggae, hip-hop and township jive conjured literally from the rubbish tip. One man strums a home-made katara guitar — a tin-can body, fishing-line strings and tuning pegs carved from sticks — while his friend thumps out a beat on a big plastic oil drum. The infectious result got them a residency at the Womad festival a few years back, and tonight they seem to have impressed the gods: as players and guests dance beneath the stars, a flash of lightning over the distant Maluti Mountains promises long-overdue rain.

Drawn particularly by the otherworldly whine of a single-stringed junk violin, I’m amused to discover that the home-made bow is strung with hair “borrowed” from the tail of a Basuto pony. It seems an appropriate metaphor for the horse-human relationship, somehow: initial friction produces something harmonious in the end. - Times Online

"Lesotho Shepherds turn junk into funk"

Lesotho shepherds turn junk into funk
Sotho Sounds
Sotho Sounds' tour of Britain was highly successful
A group of shepherds from Lesotho are making an impact in the musical world with their creation of 'Junk funk' - songs performed on instruments made from rubbish.

With recycled material including disused oil cans, car tyres, twigs and a kitchen sink, the band has managed to put together two fiddles, a bass guitar of sorts - and a drum.

"I got some branches from a tree because I needed two sticks to support the wire and the sink that I had cut up," drummer Tumelo Mpokoane told BBC World Service's Focus On Africa magazine.

"After that, I found the tube of a tyre. So before I made the actual drum, I found someone to help me stretch the tube over the drum, while I tied the tube to the drum with wire.

"Afterwards, I found a car tyre and cut it for my drumsticks. If I did not use the sticks made from tyre, the drum would not have had a good sound."


The band members are shepherds from Malealea village on Lesotho's Maluti Mountains. They are self-taught musicians, reminiscent of what East Africans call jua kali - informal artisans who earn their living by working in the open under the hot sun.

I hope they buy land and build a cultural centre where they can perform, run workshops, sell things, and make sure that there is sustainable development
Producer Risenga Makondo
In addition to Mpokoane, Rameleke Rantho is the bassist, while his cousins Tseliso Rantho and Tankiso Pita play the guitars (katara in Sesotho), using fishing lines for their strings.

Meanwhile Yosefa Chaka plays the one-stringed fiddle (qwadinyana). The youngest member of the band is 14-year-old Richard Mohale. He and his cousin Paseka are the group's dancers.

Tyres also feature in the making of the qwadinyana. According to Chaka, the one string on his fiddle came from the residue of a burnt tyre.

The seven have now formed Sotho Sounds, composing music and making instruments in between looking after animals.

South African Risenga Makondo became the group's producer and with the help of Womad Foundation put out their debut CD, Sotho Sounds Malealea, in July.


Although Makondo is pleased with the accolades the band received in the UK, he said he remained cynical about the attitude of Africans back home.

The instruments are fashioned from cans, wire and wood
"You have a lot of intellectuals in Africa who basically do not take notice of their culture until they come out of Africa, and then they realise that they are missing something," he said.

"I think that in Africa the band is not very much appreciated because what it is playing is not pop African music with electricity and saxophones."

But he stressed that he felt the band members had achieved "mental freedom" when they went on their UK tour in July, which climaxed in the Womad festival.

"The most important thing these guys have learnt is meeting with English people not in a colonial context but on an equal basis," he said.

"They have been teaching their music and learning about Western music. I am sorry but in Africa or southern Africa, white people don't show black people the respect these guys got here."

He says band members must now seize the "opportunities they get and use their money properly by investing it in something useful for their group and community."

"Being a musician today is not enough," he argued.

"I hope they buy land and build a cultural centre where they can perform, run workshops, sell things, and make sure that there is sustainable development."

- BBC News

"Womad Festival, Rivermead, Reading"

Sunday dawned bright and warm over the quagmire that was Saturday's festival ground. The only stray water visible by showtime was splashing out of the white plastic tub holding the floating percussive gourd of a water drummer in the Siam Tent. The drummer was with the group of Manecas Costa, of Guinea Bissau, the tiny West African nation whose international festival ambassador Costa has just become courtesy of his new BBC label CD. Playing jaunty minor-key dance tunes, including the distinctive goumbé rhythm, Costa was enjoyable but the heavy bass amplification stifled any subtlety. But with much sweat flying, getting the audience to wave their arms, Costa finally pulled off a successful set.

African acts dominated this Womad. The South African ensemble Amampondo demonstrated with their xylophones and percussion the textural power of wood resonating on wood. Sotho Sounds, a group of young goatherds from Lesotho, impressed with their home-made instruments (oil cans, fishing line, horsehair) and sartorial flair (wellingtons, football socks, conical straw hats). - The Independent

"Lonely Planet Lesotho"

In Lesotho, a group of shepherds known as Sotho Sounds play instruments made from ... A triumph at Britain's Womad Festival. - Lonely Planet Books

"Sotho Sounds WOMAD"

Sotho Sounds
Sotho SoundsThis lively, eight peice group make their instruments from ?found? materials such as oil cans, car inner tubes, scrap metal, wood and wire. The young group of six musicians and two dancers create a fresh and innovative sound combining South African hip hop, township jive and Sotho music. Aged from 13-22 years old, these self-taught musicians play their own hand-made drums, one-string fiddles, guitars and bass. Sotho sounds currently live in a remote area of Lesotho, a tiny country in the heart of South Africa, where they have been composing and performing their own material for the past five years ? the result is inspiring and instantly engaging.?With their uplifting sound and compelling groove, Sotho Sounds shows us that with passion and determination, new and exciting music is being created from minimal resources, in one of the most remote areas of Southern Africa. This is a ?must see? for 2003.?Director of The WOMAD Foundation, Annie MenterSOTHO SOUNDS are: Tumelo Mpokoane (drums); Kajoane Chaka and Thseliso Hoko (one-string fiddles); Monaheng Mporoane and Tankiso Pita (guitars); Rameleke Rantho (bass); Paseka and Richard Mohale (dancers).The band are in the UK for a five week series of performances and workshops. Directed by Risenga Makondo, a Venda musician from South Africa, this tour will culminate in performances at the WOMAD festival in Rivermead 2003. - WOMAD


Sotho Sounds. Bush Technology, LP.



Sotho Sounds are creative, charismatic raw power musicians. Using nothing but throwaway resources, sheer determination and the spirit to help themselves they have shaped their own form of roots music and created an inspirational, powerful identity that in 2003 catapulted them on a debut tour to WOMAD UK and Australia and has recently gained them an official invite to showcase their work at WOMEX 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Their sound is pure and organic. Visually, they are as spectacular as the mountains of their homeland.

Sotho Sounds chunky collection of instruments are all recycled and carefully crafted from wood, tin, scrap metal and wire. They know how to make scrap sing and turn total junk into fantastic funk.

Their mini organic orchestra includes a series of four string tin can guitars, clunky metal one string fiddles,and oil tin drums . Fusing this collection of homemade instruments with heartfelt vocals, shrill bird song whistles, an accordion and stomping gumboot dance, Sotho Sounds have established an infectious solid root that truly is music of the earth.

In 2003, their recycled instruments, conical hats, and gumboots were packed up and taken to the UK, Australia and beyond where they thrilled audiences large and small and made their mark on the international stage.

Following their debut tour, they continue to perform, create, and compose in Lesotho and remain strong, solid and together in both spirit and music.

More recently, in summer 2010 they were invited to The Bush Fire Festival in Swaziland and proudly welcomed back one of their founder members. Their Swaziland Festival performances left audiences shouting for more.

The spirit of determination and the echo of their homeland has always been at the heart of their every performance and remains in place to be cultivated and harvested and shared internationally.

They continue to make pure roots music hoping to show the world not only what they are made of but what they have made from absolutely nothing.

Sustainability is the dream for these junk funk musicians. They are determined to shape their own future through music.