Covid hits artists hard

Covid hits artists hard

MASERU-KHAHLISO Mphephuka, a Mosotho-Xhosa gospel music icon, is now selling fat cakes in the streets of Maseru, as the outbreak of Covid-19 hits artists’ regular sources of income.

The Covid-19 induced lockdown that resulted in the ban of large gatherings has halted his only means of income – holding music concerts on weekends and month-ends.
Mphephuka, who has been selling on the streets for just a month, is now widely derogatively called Dr Makoenya, a name he has accepted and sings about as he crosses Kingsway touting for customers.

He walks around Mafafa Shopping Complex to Lepoqong Bus Stop singing “ntho e ’ngoe le e ’ngoe ke e etsa ha monate – ho bina le ho pheha” (I do everything nicely, singing and cooking) as his way of attracting more customers.

Mphephuka is used to derogatory names.
He was called Thandaza Maoto because he would sing whilst barefoot one of his popular hit songs, Thandaza (Pray) at the start of his music career more than a decade ago. He said he owned one pair of shoes, forcing him to dance barefoot.

He says he only listens to Jesus and Jehovah, not other people, hence he pays no notice to what people say about him.
“Yekela Bantu uthi bathini ngawe, wena lalela U’Jesu ukuthi uthini. Umlalele u Jesu, umlalele u Jehova ukuthi uthini. (Do not worry about what people say about you, listen to what Jesus is saying. Listen to Jesus, Listen to what Jehovah is saying),” he sang when Covid-19 struck.

Mphephuka says cooking and baking are part of his skills, and he is now resorting to the two trades for a living.
“Knowing my skills in cooking, I decided to do it,” he says noting that his wife Nonzame Qibiso Mphephuka helps him.

“I didn’t allow the ‘what-will-people-say syndrome’ to cloud my decision,” he says.
He has been in the entertainment industry since 2004 and since then he has not received any royalties from radio stations that play his songs.
“I am popular in name only,” he says.
He says the entertainment industry is taken for granted in the country.
“Life has to go on and I won’t abandon what God gave me merely because the government doesn’t assist us.”

It was only earlier this year when former Tourism Minister Joang Molapo launched the Lesotho Copyright Society of Authors and Artists (LESCOSAA) but it is yet to be implemented.
Lescosaa’s mandate is to ensure that copyright holders are paid royalties when their music, films, books and other artistic productions are used.
Mphephuka says most artists and their assistants depend on their artistic products and now they need to be bailed out because of the Covid-19 crisis, “even if it’s a small bag of mealie-meal or small money for survival”.

He says the pandemic has hit him hard that he opted to sell fat cakes for survival.
Phephuka stands at a junction near Husted’s Building each morning scouting for customers and shouting “I am Dr Makoenya, Dr Monandelicious”.

He then walks around to Lepoqong singing along the way, at the top of his voice. Many of those familiar with the melodious voice stop to buy his fat cakes.
He says he wakes up around 1:30 a.m. to prepare 140 fat cakes daily.
Mphephuka says his wife takes some fat cakes to her workplace to sell to workmates.

“Afterwards I go home to rest,” he says.
He makes M75 daily.
He says he opted for fat cakes after realising that a lot of people like taking them with tea for breakfast.
“I also love the cakes.”

Mphephuka says his new business has challenges, like any other.
“Since I don’t care what people say, I never shifted my focus, I took their remarks lightly and kept going.”
He says some customers think they are doing him a favour when they buy his fat cakes “not knowing that M1 makes a huge difference to me”.
He says other customers complain about too much sugar or salt.
“Customers always complain and I am used to it. I dealt with a lot of challenges in my music so this is a small thing.”

He says he always had entrepreneurial skills since he was young, recalling the days when he helped his sister sell biscuits at school.
He also used to sell music cassettes.
Mphephuka says security guards at shopping centres where he sells his fat cakes and Maseru City Council (MCC) employees have been giving him a hard time by chasing him away from the selling spots.
“The MCC chased me from singing at Mafafa and now they chase me here as well, the same spot where there are plenty of other people selling their stuff.”

Last Saturday was his birthday “but the MCC security men spoiled it for me.”
However, many other Basotho have been very supportive.
“I am grateful for that.”

He says he uses social media as an advertising tool and some people call him for orders.
“I did it, they can do it as well. We should stop waiting to be hired. Job opportunities are scarce in the country,” he says.

’Mapule Motsopa

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