In Conversation With Morena Leraba and Mankind
At the Jameson INDIE Channel, we believe that unexpected and diverse collaborations always result in something extraordinary and magical – and Impepho adds some serious weight to this argument. This powerful high-energy track was created by a trio of talented musicians from three different countries. Produced by Brazilian collective Trap Funk & Alivio, it features Morena Leraba from Lesotho, and Mankind from South Africa. This track is the muse behind the concept that won director Carl Mc Millan R200K in this year’s Jameson Music Video Grant. (More about that here.) Leading up to their music video shoot in the highlands of Lesotho, we acquainted ourselves with the musicians a little more:
Tswelopele Tsotetsi is a fresh face from Joburg. He began smashing drums at his local church when he was only 13, and hasn’t stopped making beats since. When he’s not concocting new sounds under his alias Mankind, he writes for blacknation.co.za.
Morena Leraba is a musically-minded Mosotho shepherd turned graphic-designer-slash-illustrator, who fuses his heritage, culture and traditions with his love for electronic beats to create tunes unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Play Impepho while you read our conversation with them:
What / who influences your work?
Lesotho is my muse. Its rural landscapes, our history as Bantu-speaking people, our traditional music – this influences my sound and lyrics. I’m motivated by people who use their own indigenous languages and traditions in their music, like Spoek Mathambo, Petite Noir and many others. Traditional is the future!
My father was a religious follower of Jazz, which naturally influenced my taste in music. I’m inspired by classic sounds, particularly organs, orchestras and chamber music. But really inspiration can come at any time and from everywhere. Sometimes it’s my city, the people around me, my experiences, observations, my beliefs… This collaboration with Morena Leraba really shaped my path in exploring culture through music.
How did this collaboration come about?
We came together through a bizarre series of coincidences. I’ve always wanted to fuse traditional and modern sounds. I told my friend Carl Mc Millan about this passion of mine. Carl introduced me to Fritz Holscher, a German producer who was based in Cape Town at that time. Our first collaboration with a Brooklyn-based producer, Kashaka, was premiered by OkayAfrica in Brooklyn, followed by PRØSPECT in France and Konbini in the UK. People started paying attention. That’s when Blacknation made a documentary tited ‘Morena Leraba: Blending Our Stories with Modern Sounds’. At the premier of the documentary in Johannesburg, Mankind’s manager Thulasizwe Simelane introduced us and we decided to collaborate. In the meantime Kashaka from Brooklyn had introduced me to Trap Funk & Alivio, who was keen to work with us. We came together and made Impepho.
Tell us about this track.
Impepho means incense in Zulu. The song celebrates and pays homage to our cultural heritage through praise poetry. It was my first collaboration with Mankind and Trap Funk & Alivio, so the song in itself is essentially incense preparing for future collaborations.
Working with musicians from different backgrounds is always amazing. Learning about them and their cultures means we get to exchange ideas to make the world better through music.
Working with people from different countries and nationalities also broadens the story from beginning to end.
While working on this song we were on a farm and it was peaceful. Bouncing off of Morena Leraba’s music, I went to into the woods and started freestyling and writing my bit of Impepho. I think this track is a favourite because it just oozes good vibes.
THE MUSIC VIDEO
What’s the story you hope to tell?
The music video cinematically depicts a day amongst shepherds living in the highlands of Lesotho. The Basotho are very skilled horsemen and a horse racing day is a celebration.
The idea is deeply rooted in a specific African culture and aesthetic.
When doing location scouting in the mountains, Carl and I met many shepherds and pitched to them the idea of the music video by screening some of his previous projects shot here. They see themselves in his work and they really appreciate it. They mentioned, when they’re in town, they’d watch TV by gathering outside a Chinese shop and see a Western world and action movies. However, through Carl’s work, they see themselves and what’s familiar to them. They’re proud of that.
Through this video the world will discovery a part of Southern Africa they never knew existed. I think we are making history here.
This video is an invitation. We’re inviting the world into the mountains of Lesotho. Even though we live in remote and rural areas, there’s an opportunity to collaborate with the modern world. We want to encourage cultural exchange.
What is it like being a musician, specifically here and now?
It’s tough out here! Getting promoters and radio station to play your music or book your for gigs is hard. But I stay focused on making real music, the kind that can make positive changes within people and in the world at large.
In Lesotho, we don’t really have a music industry. There are no music PR companies, no music reviewers or bloggers here. You have to do everything yourself. It’s interesting because it’s a learning curve. In 2017 we have access to the internet, so you can’t really complain about some government not supporting the arts. The responsibility is ours.
Meet Carl Mc Millan, the director of the Impepho music video here.
Portrait of Morena Leraba and Mankind by Karabo Poppy Moletsane for the Jameson INDIE Channel.