Sources of Information on Mohapeloa

Morija Musuem and Archives
Morija Musuem and Archives

Sources of information on Mohapeloa’s music include, most importantly, his own prefaces to the published songbooks (see Mohapeloa: Publications by Mohapeloa), where he explains his approach and aims. Most of these are in Sesotho, but the originals and English translations by Mantoa Smouse can be found below. (See Mohapeloa’s unpublished writings with translations by Mantoa Smouse.) Some early editions of Mohapeloa’s songbooks are available in Morija Museum and Archives, along with a great deal of other useful information about the history and culture of Lesotho.

PEMS newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho in the Morija Museum and Archives
PEMS newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho in the Morija Museum and Archives

A particularly valuable collection in the archives of Morija Museum and Archives is the set of bound copies of the PEMS newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho (Little Light of Lesotho) that goes back to the nineteenth century. It covers local, national, and international news and gives a strong sense of the cultural context of Morija during Mohapeloa’s lifetime. There are a number of articles in Sesotho or English that refer to choral performances and eisteddfodau (in Lesotho and South Africa), references to Mohapeloa family members, advertisements for his songbooks, reviews, letters to the editor, photographs, and much other interesting contextual material. There is even a composition by Mohapeloa not published elsewhere, Likhomo mokoena, which appeared in March 1960, for it was not uncommon for Leselinyana to publish tonic solfa compositions by local composers.

First page of "Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong" by J.M. Mohapeloa and M.K. Phakisi
First page of "Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong" by J.M. Mohapeloa and M.K. Phakisi

Sources of information on Mohapeloa’s life include three unpublished essays: one of them, in the Morija Museum and Archives, is a long and richly detailed account of his life and music written in 1987 by J.M. Mohapeloa (his younger brother) and M.K. Phakisi. It is in Sesotho and is called ‘Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong’ [‘The Eloquence of Song in Sesotho’].

The other two are autobiographical sketches housed in the Huskisson Collection, SAMRO Archive (Johannesburg). Mohapeloa wrote both for Yvonne Huskisson, Music Organiser for Radio Bantu at her request, in 1965. One is in English, ‘Autobiography of Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa born 28th March. 1908’. The other is in Sesotho, ‘Bophelo ba ka ke le Sehoba sa Sejoale-Joale’ [My life as a modern African composer’]: a longer account, which reveals more about Mohapeloa as a musician than the shorter English version. Mohapeloa was interviewed for Radio Sesotho in June 1962 and a recording of this interview (in Sesotho) is housed at the SABC Sound Archive in Bloemfontein. In 1989, the SABC made a television documentary about the composer called ‘Ho lla noto [The sound of a note]: Composer J.P. Mohapeloa’, for its TV3 series Mmino, which was broadcast on 24 December 1989. Although this programme was shown seven years after Mohapeloa died, it contains invaluable video footage of an interview with him at his home in Morija towards the end of his life, and footage of various choirs singing his music.

Some other sources are listed below. (See Selected list of writings relating to Mohapeloa.) They include writings on Basotho music by scholars such as David Coplan, who met and interviewed Mohapeloa twice in 1978, and is pictured with him below.

David Coplan (left) with Mohapeloa (centre) in Morija, 1978 (the identify of the other person is uknown)
David Coplan (left) with Mohapeloa (centre) in Morija, 1978 (the identify of the other person is uknown)

Selected list of writings relating to Mohapeloa

African Music Society. [n.d., 1948a]. ‘List of Members at 30th April 1948.’ Cape Town: University of Cape Town Museums and Archives, P.R. Kirby Collection, file BC750/A.

Coplan, David B. 1994. In the Time of Cannibals: The Word Music of South Africa’s Basotho Migrants. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Couzens, Tim. 2003. Murder at Morija. Johannesburg: Random House.

Gill, Stephen. 1993. A Short History of Lesotho. Morija: Morija Museum and Archives.

________. 1995. A Guide to Morija. Morija: Morija Museum and Archives.

Gosh, D. 1976. ‘J.P. Mohapeloa: A Brief Biographical Sketch.’ In Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho, J.P. Mohapeloa, 11-12. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Huskisson, Yvonne. 1969. Die Bantoe-Komponiste van Suider-Afrika/The Bantu Composers of Southern Africa. Johannesburg: South African Broadcasting Corporation.

________ ed. Sarita Hauptfleisch. 1992. Black Composers of Southern Africa: An Expanded Supplement to The Bantu Composers of Southern Africa. Pretoria: HSRC.

Huskisson Collection. [n.d. mid-1960s]. Huskisson Collection, South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) Archive: file ‘Mohapeloa, J.P.’

Kirby, Percival. 1968(1934). The Musical Instruments of the Native Races of South Africa, 2nd edition. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

________. 1979. ‘Introduction’ [to ‘Bantu Composers of South Africa, The’]. South African Music Encyclopedia Vol. 1, ed. Jacques P. Malan, 85-94. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Lucia, Christine, ed. 2005. The World of South African Music: A Reader. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Lucia, Christine. 2007. ‘Travesty or Prophecy? Views of South African Black Choral Composition.’ In Music and Identity: Transformation and Negotiation, ed. Eric Akrofi, Maria Smit & Stig-Magnus Thorsén, 161-180. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

________. 2008. ‘Back to the Future? Idioms of ‘Displaced Time’ in South African Composition.’ In Composing Apartheid: Music For and Against Apartheid, ed. Grant Olwage, 12-34. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

________. 2011. ‘Mohapeloa and the Heritage of African Song.’ African Music 9(1), 56-86.

Mashologu, Mothusi. 2009. ‘Through the Glass Darkly: Reflections on Morija in the Decade between 1945 and 1955, and the Precious Heritage of the Church of Basutoland’. In Mekolokotoane Kerekeng ea Evangeli Lesotho / Jubilee Highlights 1833-2008, ed. S. Gill et.al., 135-150. Morija: Morija Museum & Archives.

Mngoma, K. 1981. The Correlation of Folk and Art Music Among African Composers. In Papers Presented at the Second Symposium on Ethnomusicology, ed. A. Tracey, 61-69. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music.

Mohapeloa, J.P.[sic] and M.K. Phakisi. 1997. ‘Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong’ [‘The Eloquence of Song in Sesotho’]. Unpublished monograph, transl Mantoa Smouse.

Morija Sesuto Printing Works. 1907. Lipina tsa likolo tse phahameng [Songs of outpouring which uplift. Morija: Morija Sesuto Printing Works.

Nhalpo , P.J. and Khumalo, S. 1993. The Voice of African Song. Johannesburg: Skotaville Publishers.

Olwage, Grant. 2003. Music and (Post)Colonialism: The Dialectics of Choral Culture on a South African Frontier. Rhodes University: unpublished PhD thesis.

________. 2008. ‘Apartheid’s Musical Signs’. In Composing Apartheid: Music For and Against Apartheid, ed. Grant Olwage, 35-54.

South African Broadcasting Corporation. 1989. Ho lla noto [The sound of a note]: Composer J.P. Mohapeloa. Documentary made for TV3 series Mmino, broadcast 24.12.1989.

Vokwana, Thembela. 2004. Expressions in Black: A History of South African Black Choral Music “Amakhwaya / Iikwayala”. Pretoria: Unpublished essay.

Wells, Robin E. 1994. An Introduction to the Music of the Basotho. Morija: Morija Museum and Archives.

Mohapeloa’s unpublished writings with translations by Mantoa Smouse

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