Lawyer, musician all rolled into one

Lawyer, musician all rolled into one

MASERU – A LAWYER, professional singer, and motivational speaker all rolled into one.
For a decade Mookho Moqhali has successfully juggled all three careers hopping from the courtroom to the studio or to speak to a group of people in need of motivation.
Moqhali has now risen to stardom.
Born and raised in Mohalalitoe, Maseru, the 35-year old diva’s mother who singlehandedly raised her and three other siblings, died in 2010.
But that was not before she had rubbed off her influence on Moqhali, who says music runs in her blood.
In her own words, she takes thepost through a journey that started from humble beginnings.
For Moqhali, music was not just a dream. It was a family affair, an inescapable destiny.
“I grew up in a family that was very music oriented,” she says.

“My mother was a musician, my sister is a singer, my little brother is a guitarist. On my mother’s side they have always had a history of music,” she says.
Growing up as a member of a church where music is revered helped matters.
At the age of 13, Moqhali was already singing in the Apostolic Church Sunday School choir.
“That was when I realised the power of my voice.”
But why go for Afro-Jazz then?

She responds: “Every musician at some point in life needs to find their niche, despite the fact that they have a vocal talent.”
“That is why you find musicians who have a powerful voice still struggle to sell their music because the genre that they sing does not fully reflect their vocal capacity.”
“Generally, I am a person who loves jazz and I think jazz is a very mature music and it is music that you can package whichever way you want. So I chose jazz because people who have inspired me musically from when I was growing up are jazz musicians and they still inspire me even now.”
“Family,” is Moqhali’s unequivocal response when asked about her inspiration to get into music.
The star’s family history of music is her greatest inspiration.

Also, as a jazz singer, she is mostly inspired by two South African singers Simphiwe Dana and Lira Molapo.
Internationally, she loves American singer Rachel.
“Rachel is really good and she does soul and Simphiwe Dana does Afro-soul and jazz, so I love female musicians because I am a woman”, she says.
Lira is her favourite afro-jazz artist because her songs “preach life, empowerment, believing and love”.
The fact that she grew beyond Africa serves as a great inspiration for Moqhali since she is now based in the UK.
Moqhali has always been singing from the age of 13.

She went to law school and after graduating in 2008 she worked for the Ministry of Health.
She started singing professionally in 2015 when she released her debut album with a song called ‘Ba ile’.
The debut album was supposed to help her penetrate the industry because all these years she was singing other people’s songs.
She had to consult gurus in the music industry for guidance.

Since she was a young woman in this male dominated genre she found it very challenging.
So to break through as a woman, it took a lot of courage, support and a lot of motivation to get there.
“I had to make sure that I write a song that is catchy enough for anybody who listens to it to say ‘this girl can sing’”.
Although family support is vital, young people with dreams also should have the zeal to drive themselves, she says.
She is now learning how to play a guitar with the help of her little brother, who also helped her write most of the songs.
Moqhali thinks musicians in Lesotho face many problems that “are just too deeply rooted”.

The lack of protection of intellectual property rights is a major disincentive for people to invest meaningfully in Lesotho’s music industry, says the talented star.
“So there’s no law on intellectual property rights. For instance, right now I’m releasing my album but my country cannot protect my music. I had to go to RISA (Recording Industry of South Africa) and SAMRO (Southern African Music Rights Organisation) in South Africa to get my music protected,” she says.
Discovering and nurturing talent is a herculean task in a country with no formal music training, she says.

The star maintains that the government has not invested much in the music industry hence the lack of formal training.
“There’s not even a music academy in Lesotho, so there’s no hope for vocally talented Basotho and those who have interest in learning some musical instruments unless they go to South Africa, so that’s quite a challenge for them,” she says.
“Many musicians lose their competence due to the fact that there’s no formal training. Everything that’s a talent in life, you have to channel it, specialise it with training and there’s no such platform for training here”, she says.

Moqhali says the future of music in Lesotho is bleak.
The only thing they will be doing is running in circles, which means, they will have their music played on local radio stations and not even get the royalties while they keep releasing new music, she says.

For Moqhali, prayer conquers all.
“God can help us break barriers that human beings can’t help us with,” she says.
She says music doesn’t pay in Lesotho and all she seeks now is to widen her exposure as much as possible.
She hopes this will help her break onto the international scene where the real money is.
Making sure that her debut album and her latest single are accessible for free helped her get exposure.
She avails herself for local radio interviews and asks them to play her music for free.
She also makes it free to download on Youtube, Facebook and other platforms.

The singer also collaborated with students from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) on their platform called Musicbox who uploaded her song titled ‘Mphe-mphe-ea-lapisa’.
To make sure that people hear her music she sometimes performs at shows for free to help enlarge her audience.
Her objective is to do international tours and perform all over the world within the next five years.
In 2015 she won the Ultimate Music Award for the best Jazz compilation.
The award put her in the limelight.

“It helped me when I was in the United States to perform.”
As part of the prestigious US programme, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2016, Moqhali’s music talent was discovered by one of her lecturers who helped her to perform an acappella.
She nailed it.

That opened another door for her to perform with Ghost Salt, a US band.
“So what they decided to do was put me in the line-up and said, we have a Young African Leadership Initiative fellow from Africa who is going to perform with Ghost Salt,” she says.
She also had the privilege of performing with the North African band at an event hosted in Pittsburgh, in the US.
One of her proudest moments was when she performed alongside American singer Maya Azucena, a star Moqhali says “is all about music and nothing else”.
“That woman encouraged me so much and told me that the challenge of making it in the music industry as a woman is not just an issue of making sure that your music is the best, it’s just generally knowing that as a woman you have the capacity to do it right.”

For Moqhali, these words showed her that all musicians face similar problems despite geographical location but it’s all about hard work.
“I learnt a lot from her in that little time I got to spend with her.”
Her new album titled Itholele will be released soon and she says it’s her favourite album by far.

Itholele is a song related to a Sesotho idiom that says ‘li tlohele li hole ‘moho re tla li bona mohla kotulo’ (Let them grow together until harvest time).
“It is because generally I found that the issue of conflict resolution is very serious. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the house or at work, with friends, any kind of a relationship there’s always conflict.”

“So, Itholele is a song that says, learn not to fight, learn not to be in a battle. This song is in my heart more than any other song on my album.”
Moqhali says the reason why people end up not living the best of their lives is because they spend most of their energy fighting battles which are not even worth it.
Itholele is a song that says ‘be still, keep calm, have peace, do your thing’ because life is too short.
The least you can do is focus that energy on living your purpose, because using that energy in fighting is not going to help you in anyway, she adds.
Even though she’s passionate about music and law, she says it has not been easy to juggle them both.
“There are times when it gets so heavy that I wish I could just have a platform to quit one and do the other,” she says.

It is her passion for music that keeps her going and also knowing that her daily job finances the same music since she doesn’t have sponsors.
She only gets to music after 5pm to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with her 9am to 5pm legal job.
She sometimes stays up until 4am especially when she has gigs and still manages to get to her office at 8am.
“I’m waiting for a time when God will give me the privilege for my music to get to a point where it finances me because I will finally get out of this office,” she says.

Her advice to young artists is that they should be open to learning the tricks of the industry and make sure that their music reflects the kind of people they are.
“Make sure that your music is informative and empowering because people listen to music in different states of mind and emotions,” she says, adding that she “learnt a lot” from the likes of Tšepo Tšola, Tau Malebo, Bhudaza Mapefane and Selimo Thabane, with whom she worked in the same band.
The singer says she will not rest until her music is powerful enough to make a social impact, a political difference, as well as result in legislative interventions on some issues she feels strongly about.
“The only way to achieve that is to reach more influential people to listen to my music and understand what my bigger picture is.

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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