I am not much of a biography reader, but today I realised that I had been holding my breath to read one about Frank Leepa, as a birthday gift.
I had hoped that 2013, being the 10th year anniversary of his death, will be a good time to finally have his biography published, as once promised in the now non-functional Frank Leepa revival website. Actually, beyond being hopeful, I prayed about the matter to God the Almighty—Qhobosheane ea rona bakupi, Seokamela sa maholimo le lefats’e.
I was inspired into prayer, in part, because I tend to also suffer from the others-must-do-it-because-I-simply-have-no-time-or-some-other-resource-to-make-it-happen syndrome. Yes, I know this is a horrible syndrome; but assuming I could overcome it and convince myself that I am competent enough for the task, where would I even start?
I suppose I could start by making efforts to interview men like ntate Letele (aka G-man) who I hear played with Frank Leepa before the days of Uhuru in a band called Anti-antics. I remain unclear about why little is ever said about the Anti-antics. However, I do have an inkling why the name had to change.
Ntate Peete, a man with a flair for storytelling, tells this wonderful story where Frank was full of antics; he glided back and forth on stage–not in Michael Jackson style–and got very near to playing the guitar with his teeth, all in the interest of keeping the show going because one band member got too drunk to perform.
I can’t remember the year cited by ntate Peete, but it was certainly pre-80s. What I vividly remember is the passion conveyed about Frank Leepa’s love for music. For the love of music, he was willing to break a neck through some antics on stage in order to preserve the quality of each musical piece, while, of course, entertaining the audiences.
Now, back to my inkling. My working theory is that when Frank Leepa set or became part of a new band, it was with profound self-awareness. He understood that the lengths he was willing to go to in his performances would make it impossible for many to grasp that music was his weapon to fighting the shenanigans in our society–or rather, taking a stand against the antics of some members of our society.
I know I have just been grossly speculative, but what can a woman do? I have been waiting somewhat patiently for my most coveted biography. Waiting to confirm my anecdotes and to gain some insights that may allow me to fully understand Frank Leepa’s compositions—for in each, I believe he left a gem or two to be mined by listener’s own reflection.
I will not hold my breath, but wait I shall. Unabashedly, I will lustfully wait for a Frank biography!
Tags: Frank Leepa
It is a long independence weekend in Lesotho. We are three years shy from celebrating 50 years of independence, but given that we are far from experiencing “nala” (prosperity) as a nation, I am not sure whether this is something to delight in or cry for.
Actually, I lie! If it were to help in any way I would most certainly cry for my beloved country, Lesotho fats’e la bo-ntat’a rona.
Despite conferring degrees by the masses—like we did last weekend—our education system is plummeting.
Education, the cornerstone of development, is now largely regarded as a matter of personal achievement, or, to put it more bluntly, a means to upward mobility. We use the likes of Michael Schumacher as crowning examples to cement this idea. And, of course, to inadvertently reinforce this growing outward-looking culture, where anything good can only come from the outside and necessarily imbues a Western (capitalist/neoliberal) feel of success to it.
Fundamentally, we seem to forget that education is deemed a right because it is a venture of social justice and a means to creating a society of equals. I would argue based on last Saturday’s graduation speeches that this view to education is only partially remembered because of some unspoken agreement that a hearty speech should, at a minimum, be peppered with “public service” rhetoric.
But what if we had gained independence from the bonds of political correctness and unspoken accords of what qualifiers as a hearty speech? What would be our truth when it came to education and the general state of affairs? Would we see ourselves as plummeting into a failed state or a nation on a prosperous track?
Truthfully, I am not sure of the answers, but I think it is time that we revisited the three core questions of the 1960s when we were a nation in search of its identity:
- Re bo mang? —who are we?
- Re tsoa kae?—where do we come from?
- Re ea kae?—where are we heading?
Otherwise, how do we ever hope to be self-sufficient again? Or rekindle that industrious spirit that made us breed our own sure-footed ponies at a time when horses were a mere novelty?
September is the beginning of my favourite season: spring! It also happens to be heritage month in South Africa, where I currently reside. For me, the two add up to a month of musical appreciation—or at least, this is also why I believe the birds sing in spring time.
To join the birds in their singing, I think it is only fitting to show my appreciation by singing praises to my musical icon: Frank Mooki Leepa.
Frankly speaking, when it comes to heritage icons to be celebrated in South Africa—and indeed in Lesotho, but this goes without saying—Frank Leepa’s name should come up. This is an opinion, however, one that I hope to (continuously) defend with fervour.
My age says I more likely to have experienced in a tangible manner Bhudaza in his early days than I could have Frank Leepa. This being the case, perhaps a good place to begin my defence (in this blog piece) is to throw Bhudaza in the mix—for indeed, I experienced his blossoming into a celebrated musician from his days in Talima, a band with his late brother Mochoko, which also featured his late nephew Lekoane on bass guitar at a tender age of about ten, playing better than many adult guitarists.
The Talima days I remember very vividly. They were the prime days of my youth, beauty and free expression of my opinions about all and sundry. In those days, as a budding artist, Bhudaza was more recognisable by the soil that nurtured and allowed him to flourish. Here, I am referring directly to the influence of his brother Mochoko, who died in August 2001.
It took Google to get the year, but the month was etched in my mind. When the sad news reached many in Lesotho, I was actually with ‘mangoane Mpotla celebrating her birthday. The weather that evening was particularly nasty for mid August—it was cold, windy and sleeting—yet after our dining at Lancers Inn, we remained undeterred about ending our night at Victoria hotel with Bhudaza’s performance, alas…the night didn’t end as we planned!
That September, I called it the spring of Bhudaza’s career. He performed like I had never seen before. He was like a man possessed, a thorn bird even, playing each note to levels of unbelievable perfection. And we, the fans, loyal to the memory of Mochoko, allowed those notes to spring us to a level where spirits and beings commune with each other. We were mourning but also celebrating. And yes, while this may sound warped, it really was rooted in knowing Mochoko, who, for the record, I never did call ntate. A mere 10 minute conversation with Mochoko, when he talked music and/or the need for a music school for Basotho children, was to know him at some intimate level. A level that was inspiring and full of what some may refer to as ‘radical hope’ for the industry and the role it can play in transforming society. In a nutshell, you would understand why the show must always go on!
I have digressed; but not long the summer of Bhudaza’s career followed. He was in the studio recording his first album, which was super explosive.
Can we guess who was the man in the background assisting with production and arrangement of this album? It was none other than Frank Mooki Leepa. Sadly he died a few months before its release, but, in my opinion, his touch remained. For me, that touch was in how the spirit of Mochoko was infused into the album—I can’t really explain it, but I had this sense that the album had the same feel as one that Talima had hoped to record with the Germans, if life’s complexities and death had not gotten in the way.
Yes, life does suck and things never go according to plan, but again I digress. This post is about why I celebrate Frank Mooki Leepa and why I believe it is important to remember that his name deservedly should be counted among the heritage icons in South Africa during heritage month.
For me, it is worth mentioning that it is ultimately the words or lyrics that determine whether my connection to a song is superficial or not—unless, of course, we are talking about a pure instrumental. I can happily dance, for example, to Bhudaza’s song khera—a name for a potent Sesotho brew—but it doesn’t mean the song connects with my being. Contained in the broad message to caution us all of the dangers of alcohol (khera) is a gendered part that sits uneasily with me, captured by the following two lines:
Hey brother, life is yours, you better look after it.
Hey sister, come on let me change your life.
At first listen (or even read), the two lines can easily be dismissed, particularly because towards the end of the song, both sexes are called on with the same offer to be lead on to a path that will change their lives. Yeah … exalt to an end that recognises equality. But wait! What of the existence of the above seemingly innocent lines found in the beginning of the song? Surely they cannot be ignored. They perpetuate the notion that women lack their own agency: they need a man (like Bhudaza) to walk them to a path of redemption. In contrast, men simply need to be reminded of their own agency.
These two lines, without even getting into the politics of their positioning, sever any emotional connection I could have to the song. The idea that Bhudaza and Frank Leepa can be at the same conscience levels immediately becomes unimaginable to me. To just ward off the idea, my first urge is to listen to vukani— wake up. I am not talking about Sipho Hotstix Mabuse’s version, for his immediately turns the hot in his name to lukewarm. I am talking about Sankomota’s version with Frank Leepa leading the vocals (and, of course, involved in other background activities).
Vukani is a must listen to song for all who may have doubts about counting Frank Leepa among the heritage icons in South Africa. Every line in that song is conscience-raising and modelled around the necessity to end apartheid and all other forms of oppression.
My favourite lines, by far, are the ones that point out the contradictions of the struggle, which unfortunately, continue to exist to this day, almost 30 years of the recording of the song. We have people that talk about freedom yet have no problems killing their own brothers. Just as we have people ready to shout “right on” but later refuse to move on with the agenda of building a just society.
The one line that absolutely takes the cake for me, which I shall not dare paraphrase is:
you go around screaming equality, but you paddle your own sister and destroy morality….no no no no no no no … vukani madoda …
For me, a proud feminist, this enhances by leaps and bounds Frank Leepa’s call for intersectionality. A call to recognise all forms of oppression. There is no denying or sweeping under the carpet the problem of patriarchal violence. A direct question is posed to the men fighting for a supposed life of dignity: how do you fight for freedom and equality when you see nothing wrong with beating or oppressing your women?
This question, I imagine, is asked in the spirit of ”monna o tentsoa ts’ea ke bang”, a man is helped into his loin garment by other men. As such, I believe the intention was to actively initiate a dialogue that reminds and will continue to remind the men that equality is not a one narrow dimensional concept—otherwise why, for example, were the women willing to pledge their solidarity and support in the “struggle”?
For me, there is no doubt, therefore, that vukani embodies the kind of activism/politics that we should all align ourselves to. Singing or performing this song in the 80s was an obvious punishable political act. More so, because it was inevitably accompanied by a repertoire that included songs like woza, uhuru and house on fire.
Let’s pause for a moment. Can you possibly see why ordinary people would want to spring into action to bring about (positive) change in their lives from such a repertoire? If you can, then I hope you can also see why Frank Leepa qualifies as a musical heritage icon. With music as his medium, he made an effort to inspire people to blossom into being extraordinary: his lyrics encouraged them to act and deal with the contradictions that exist in their everyday struggles so that ours can begin to be a better world.
What is more, beyond the grave his work continues to inspire. It springs one from the doldrums when winter makes a sudden appearance in the emotional side of life. Or, at least, it does for me. Hence, my willingness to spring in celebration of his memory, heritage and the vukani or awakening season itself, where singing comes all so naturally to creation!
The wall across my lounge chair is adorned with a beautiful Meshu piece. This is not a typical Meshu creation. It is Meshu in the abstract–his interpretation or contortion of “the scream“!
I fell in love with the piece from the moment I laid my eyes on it. I had never before heard or seen “the scream”, which is apparently one of the most recognisable works of art from the 19th century. But when I looked at Meshu’s piece, the scream I saw—a scream of life. A scream for clean green living. A scream of a woman (or man) overwhelmed, yet still determined to make sense of the world and the everyday struggles. It was indeed a scream of radical hope for a life of peace and prosperity.
In the financial realm, the scream was also an apt representation of my finances. The painting was far from my price reach. I couldn’t afford it; yet there was no denying the fact that I strongly related to the painting in an unimaginable way, at least in the eyes of Meshu. I became a worthy custodian because Meshu in his generosity decided to apply the logic of ancestral kinship and not that of capitalism; the ancestors wouldn’t have it any other way– balimo ba taung ba ne ba se ba laotse! The painting needed to move from the hands of one motaung to the next; otherwise one of us (not me) would stand to interfere with what was divined by the ancestors.
It really is with a deep sense of gratitude that each morning, as I have my cup of tea, I also make an effort to enjoy the version of “the scream” that adorns my wall. A passionate scream for a life of regal dignity, where many of us can walk with our heads held up high, in part, because we are able to use our various rich talents to create a just and green world.
This new morning ritual of mine may seem a tad depressing, but it is not. To paraphrase John Holloway from his book, Changing the world without taking power, it is a reminder that everything essentially starts with a scream and not with the word. As he elaborately explains, it is the scream and the rage behind it, that spurs us into possible action to want to change the world. He makes a point that we need to act to reject the world which we feel is wrong, even if we are uncertain about how impactful our efforts will be– for ultimately every small effort counts to building ”a true world”.
To the question: “What would a true world look like? “, ergo why should we reject our current one through willingness to act and make the small or big changes?, this is how Holloway responds:
We may have a vague idea: it would be world of justice, a world in which people could relate to each other as people and not as things, a world in which people would shape their own lives. But we do not need to have a picture of what a true world would be like in order to feel that there is something radically wrong with the world that exists. Feeling that the world is wrong does not necessarily mean that we have a picture of a utopia to put in its place. Nor does is necessarily mean a romantic, some-day-my-prince-will-come idea that, although things are wrong now, one day we shall come to a true world, a promised land, a happy ending. We need no promise of a happy ending to justify our rejection of a world we feel to be wrong.
Basically, we need to act in hope that eventually we might get the world that we and our children deserve. But we must remember that it all starts with the scream!
I have said it before and I am willing to say it again: I am in total awe of Frank Mooki Leepa! His compositions just have a way of sugaring me up. Unexpectedly, I seem to find (his) humour in songs that some would regard as serious.
Ramasela, a favourite of mine and many others, is, in may opinion, peppered with unbelievable humour; yet this is a fundamentally serious song of migration–a song of how parents lose out on some of the tender moments of their children’s lives because of the need to work.
One part that really stands out in the chorus of Ramasela is “mots’elle tee” (pour tea for him/her) which is followed by what I regard as a very loaded response “there’s no sugar”!
To perhaps let one judge how loaded the response is, it might be worthwhile to briefly explore what drives the “tea culture” within our society.
Tea in the world of whiteness (aka privilege) is regarded as very calming and soothing. It has magical properties that can even help to avert wars. This pretty much means for all of life’s problems you can consider having tea because:
In the world of blackness (oppression or marginalisation) tea is but regarded as the medium for comfort. The sugar that goes in the tea is the real deal. In fact, this why some individuals who are awake to the realities of the world in general have observed a correlation between social class and the quantity of sugar that one may have in their tea. In Lesotho, for example, it is hardly the “bourgeoisie” who will ask for more sugar and follow the request with a disclaimer in the neighbourhood of a retort: “I didn’t grow up in Natal’s sugar farms”!
So, getting back to the tea and sugar matter in Ramasela, Frank Leepa is essentially asking: what good is tea to a child bitten by a lizard (khalimoletsoana) when there’s no sugar nor parents to lovingly do the comforting?
Without doubt, the question is very serious, though, admittedly, I do find some humour in it—partly because of the “sugar farm” phrased disclaimers/retorts. For me, the seriousness of the question largely stems from engaging with the curious question of “why a bite on the (rear) cheeks by khalimoletsoana“?
I have found an answer that satisfies me. But I had to make peace with the idea that I possess a mind of a contortionist. In my mind, what I did was to connect “khali” to the concept of “khang-khali”, enticement. And this eventually lead me to see a picture of greed, which bites us all including the innocent members of our society. This picture is really bleak so I shall skip the description part—lest I reveal how warped my brain or thinking really is.
In efforts to end on a slightly humorous note, I shall be a little bit historical and remind everyone that if it weren’t for sugar, Mokhachane ntat’a Moshoeshoe, would have died a bitter man. It is purported that according to Mokhachane, the only redeeming thing about the missionaries that his son Moshoeshoe invited was that they came with sugar. Ha e se ka ts’oekere, ruri baruti ba Moshoeshoe mahlong a Mokhachane ba ka be ba sa le bona! Without the sugar, well … let’s just say there would have definitely been no loving at all!
All in all, one take home message from Ramasela or even Mokhachane’s tale is that sugar or sweetness is what we all need to have just an ounce of love and/or caring.
Once in a while I am forced to accept that one of my superpowers is that of creating comfortable spaces for people to be. To laugh, cry, vent and/or just pour their hearts out. Of course I do consider this a privilege bestowed on me.
However, there are days when this privilege weighs on me. This happens on days when all I have to offer the world is a strong exterior to shield my ever soft interior. Officially these are the days, which the best decision to make would be to stay in bed, and if I really must be optimist, hope to cry into my company a loved one to just hold me.
Recently I had one such day. Against all odds I got out of bed and went to work, where later in the day I also had to avail my superpowers. I felt like crap because I had to acknowledge there was a reason for not staying in bed, but also because I didn’t feel entitled to the sombre feelings that made it difficult to get out of bed.
In part, because of the conversation I had while availing my superpowers, I felt exactly how I felt when my mother was in hospital and I was called to question my love for her. I saw no problems with her being in a public hospital, despite its poor reputation of care. One of the reasons was that I trusted with all my being that she will have the best care—given she was part of the health sector and also a health professional in the very hospital in question. So unabashedly, I held on to that trust despite everything else and in full knowledge that some other families had no such trust. For me, it was the latter that was more problematic to my being. It really was battling with privilege at a whole new level: privilege only by extreme comparison.
In what world should one have to feel comfortable by the idea that their own loved one will receive the best care on the basis of who they are? Is this really a fair and a just world?
The above questions asked from a vantage point of privilege can be tormenting. More so, on the dark days when one shouldn’t be dealing with the complexities of life. And it is simply not kosher to ask: do I, as a being, have the right to want to feel, just for a day, vulnerable? That is, suspend the long term view on life and simply focus on the short term needs that make me human…why does a sense of privilege make this a tall order to ask?
Hopefully, one day I will have the answers to my questions. Today, I shall simply take comfort in knowing that my ability to question privilege may just be what I need to live a properly examined life, where each day the battle becomes one of being while also letting others to be.
Ao chehe …kea bots’aba bokholoa! Ke ne ke lumetse e le kannete hore ha e le ‘na ha ke lekholoa la puo. But to my utter shock and dismay, it does seem like I am a “foreigner” when it comes to language—my mother tongue language. I have lost that easiness of navigation and articulation of what could be expressed even in sleep. Hmmmm… if my understanding is not lacking, then I must belong to a group of those otherised individuals known as “makholoa”—the people, who after being away from their native land for ages, are sometimes laughed at for making incredulous remarks about the changed (or unchanged) landscape of what was once familiar to them at an intimate level.
Lekholoa? ‘Na taoana ea lihlaba le lithaba tsa eena Thesele, ruri ha ke lumele! Ke hlapanya joalo ka majakane hore hona ke toro—toro ea Fako! I am/should be a dual citizen—or, if you prefer, a proper bilingual. So, what went wrong? Ke fihlile joang moo molepellaneng1? Ke bua ka oona molepellane oa ho ts’oana le oo libali-bali, matjelo-tjelo2, a o rehileng “fiscal cliff”. Ke re: ke fihlile joang ho iphumana ke lutse leralla leo ke sitoang e le kannete ho fumana mantsoe ka puo ea ka a ho itoloka ka botebo hore le haeba lebitla le ne le se le ahlame, Seokamela thapeli ea ka a e utloe?
Ha ke na karabo empa le ha ho le joalo e re ke hakanye feela. Morero ha se ho nyela lehala kapa hona ho luka metsi a liliba tse etseng hore kajeno e be ke thope ea ho ts’oarisoa teu3—hoba chehe, ke ithutile “ho lema” fats’eng la bokholoa hore ke tsebe ho ikemela le ho ja ka mofufutso oa phatla ea ka. Potso-kholo ke hore: na ha metso ea puo e fokola, ke tla hola ho le ho kae? Kapa bo-nkhekhe ba fositse ha ba re puo ke mmetla-tsela oa boitsebo? Clearly, this can’t be!
I am here with poor roots stemming from soil fertilised with love. This is the undisputed truth: ‘nete ea ‘mamaruri. Taba-tabelo e kholo ea baholisi ba ka e ne e le hore ke be le lenyora la ho noa selibeng sa thuto: seliba sa maphetlaka libuka oona matjelo-tjelo! I am here because their quest and sacrifice to ensure that I have a bright future came at the expense of compromising my potential to grow in my own language, ergo cultivate a strong sense of identity rooted in my own Sesotho culture.
I wrestle with the language just to be nuaced enough to tell my truth without being insulting or disrespectable. But, I really shouldn’t wrestle with Sesotho: I should be able to use the language in a powerful manner that even allows, if needs be, to address royalty as peers in a formal setting—and, more importantly, get away with it! Invoke a simple idiom like “e khotjoa e le maoto mane”, or daringly declare: “ngoana o nyela kapa ho rotela ‘ma’e a mo pepile; haeba ke fahlile ‘muso ka lehlabathe, thupa shapa fats’e boo!”. As it stands, it seems I can potentially be expressive at this level in English not Sesotho; even though, for reasons I still cannot articulate, I had assumed that I possessed reasonable command of both languages.
Senyesemane se re: “it’s never too late”. So, instead of wasting more precious time thinking up reasons of why you are deficient in Sesotho, taoana ea thaba, namame e ts’ehla, just work hard to increase your proficiency. Hoba ruri ha li na motloha-pele. U noele, u bile u futse lefats’eng la bokholoa, joale e fihle nako ea ho fula hlabeng sa puo ea heno. E fihlile nako ea hore: “khomo boela haeno o holile”!
The above pictures are taken by my friend Susan Hansen at Dwesa on the day that Siyakhula Living Lab was having a “thanks-giving” celebration to acknowledge all parties involved in the project.
I share the pictures today as I ponder why we work, ergo why worker’s day should be relevant to me–given this remains a day of work except I have an excuse not to answer emails and be reclusive.
So, why do I work? If you asked me this a few years ago, I doubt I would’ve been able to provide an answer with an ounce of conviction.
I regard my work as in tune with Malala Pipe—the believe that children are latent with potential that can be tapped so they become “Malala pipe(s) no more” i.e. actualised beings that contribute to a fair and just society.
I work in service of “Malala Pipe(s)”. This is why I work and I absolutely take joy in this fact.
With each passing day, I regret less that the younger me ever believed that I could do better not working directly with anything related to children, specifically their education. Today, I know I am a better being for simply letting my inner child show and following the passions I have about children.
With a degree of certainty, I know the person who said I could do better than be a teacher was wrong: because I am better a person for wanting and working hard to be a better teacher/educator. This is my truth and my simple answer to why I work!