Keeping famo music alive

Keeping famo music alive

QACHA’S NEK – FAMO music, known to have originated from Basotho migrant workers who used to sing it during their leisure time, has grown into a massive brand over the years.
The phenomenal growth has not stopped people from generally associating the genre with non-elites, uneducated people and folk of very strong rural backgrounds because of the music’s intrinsic connection to mine work

However, for 32-year-old Monamoli Mahlekele, a university graduate, “music is music as long as you like it and it knows no social boundaries”.
Mahlekele is a software engineer, having graduated from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT).

Contrary to popular belief that famo music is for the uneducated, Mahlekele is among the elites in his mountainous Qacha’s Nek district.
He is a young entrepreneur who mentors and trains youths in Qacha’s Nek in entrepreneurship, IT and helps groom those that are interested in the arts and culture.

He has become an icon to be reckoned with in his district.
No one knew that a few men by the roadside singing famo music using a hand-made inner tube rubber skin drum with beer bottle caps as rattles, accordion and ‘Mamokhorong (string connected to a stick tightened enough to produce music) would brew the next intellectual famo star.
“I would stop and watch them sing, sometimes throw in money and just be there in admiration,” he says smiling.

One day he joined in with a stanza or two as the band was playing and he loved how he sounded.
“Funny enough people loved how I sounded too, their excitement was unbelievable.”

This was how Mahlekele was initiated into famo music and Milo, a name he was given by his admirers, was born.
“With or without sugar I am still sweet,” he says, referring to his slogan with laughter.
He had never thought of becoming a famo musician prior to his experience with famo musicians.
He starts singing his most recent famous song featuring Megarhezt and Malome Vector:

“…ha re shape li-thuso phala, re shaya le walk.
Ha re batle moilibano, re shaya le walk
Heee, le li vosho, re shaya le walk.
Bafwethu nayi le walk, sishaya na le walk…”.

The song was composed and written by Mahlekele but has become famous through Megarhetz who has been trending over a couple of months.
It is a happy song that loosely translates to mean “we are not dancing Thuso Phala but we dance Nayi lewalk. We don’t do Vosho’s but we dance Nayi lewalk”.

Thuso Phala, born in May 1986 in Soweto, Gauteng, is a South African football midfielder who plays for Premier Soccer League club Black Leopards.
He is the inventor of Thuso Phala dance moves that are becoming popular among South African dancers and soccer fans.

Rap and famo all-in-one is a growing music trend in Lesotho.
“With this song, I wanted to mark my niche market,” Mahlekele says, adding: “I am young . . . I am educated and very cultural, what better way to do it than to bring all of what I am together.”
He says to become successful in the music industry one should be creative and he thinks his craft is developing well.
Since the launch of the song, Mahlekele together with Megahertz are used in Econet jingles.

Mahlekele, aka Milo, did not enjoy an easy upbringing.
He is the second born of four children who, for the greater part of their lives, were raised by a single parent.
His traumatic life experience started in 1996 when his parents separated and his mother together with his siblings moved from Ha-’Masana in Maseru from Leropong in Qacha’s Nek, his mother’s maiden home.

When he completed his primary education, Mahlekele had to wait a year because his sister was writing Form E and his unemployed mother could not afford to pay school fees for both of them.
When he finally enrolled for high school, he would miss school for months during the quarter because funds were not enough to pay quarterly fees.

He did odd jobs at a wholesale company carrying buyers’ loads on a worn out wheelbarrow either to their homes or the taxi rank.
“I had to help my mother because it was evident that she was not having it easy.”
When he was in Form B, his mother, the only source of hope for him and his siblings died.

“My life was shattered. My hopes and dreams became blurred because she held the pieces of this family together.”
Mahlekele’s sister got married and he had to drop out of school.
A Good Samaritan working at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek as a nurse knew of Mahlekele’s dire situation.

Her son, whom Mahlekele had protected from school bullies as a Form A student, told her of his protector’s problems.
“The lady decided to pay for my fees and when she transferred to Maseru she took me with her and enrolled me and her son in an Eastern Cape high school in South Africa.”

“My life was still painful and bitter at the time even though everything I needed was provided for,” he recalls.
“I still had siblings who needed financial assistance and I could not help them because I was still being helped.”

He enrolled at the LUCT to study software engineering and this is where he found his first step into financial freedom.
“This is where I knew that I had the freedom to support my siblings financially when I could and buy them what I wanted to without any hustles,” he says.

He was using part of his monthly stipend from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) to help out at home.
He started selling potatoes to vendors who were preparing fresh chips near LUCT and the Lerotholi Polytechnic.

Every morning, Mahleke would deliver the potato bags to each one of his clients and collect his money later in the evening.
“I learned the importance of entrepreneurship as a subject and as a practical skill in poverty alleviation,” he says.
He was able to send his two siblings to school throughout high school.
During his internship he registered an IT company together with three other students.

The company’s journey looked promising.
They developed a registry system for the police that was meant to assist in the electronic safekeeping of dockets, biometric information of lawbreakers and most wanted people.

“This system had the highest security features that would trace stolen dockets back to the person who had access to them,” he says.
“It was the best there ever was in the country.”
They were given an office at the police headquarters as volunteers.
“We thought this was our breakthrough but it didn’t happen for us. Some of our workmates started finding jobs elsewhere and the office closed.”
He decided he would start his own company, Dozen Brains Information Technology.

Hustling to make ends meet, Mahlekele tried working as a pesticides and fumigation assistant walking to Maseru from Roma, some 35 kilometres journey, where he was now staying.
The money he generated was not enough for him to catch a taxi.
As time went by he started selling straw hats.

His grandmother in Qacha never stopped asking Mahlekele to return home but he stayed in Maseru, where dreams became a reality.
In 2013 he got married and life became harder. He finally took his grandmother’s advice and moved back home.
“Life had taught me a lot at this hour when I decided to return home with my wife and kids.”

He has established a youth organisation that works with poor youths, youth in correctional services and disabled ones.
He has released seven albums. Selota Sa Poho 1, 2, 3 and 4 Khanyapa 1, 2 and 3.
He says he prides himself in keeping famo music alive as a cultural memento.

“The famo music gang fights are not what famo is about and I don’t even want to be associated with such. I look up to people who have stood strong on what music is about.”
He mentions Apollo Ntabanyane, Puseletso Seema and Mantša who have never been associated with gang wars in the music genre.

Rose Moremoholo


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