An African critical edition
This Critical Edition brings together for the first time most of the music written by composer Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa (1908-1982).((Evidence exists for more works than are included here, but authentic versions have yet to been found (see the end of the Catalogue of Works by J.P. Mohapeloa). Once they are found and verified, they will be added to Volume VI online.)) It comprises 182 short unaccompanied choral works and one piano work, collectively dating from the late 1920s to late 1970s. It is the first complete critical edition of music from southern Africa, and establishes not only the critical edition in Africa, but also the gravitas of a genre of African vocal music composed as literary-musical work by people using their home language (in this case Sesotho), notating their music in the mission script, tonic solfa, and writing for a culture of choral singing moulded since the nineteenth century as a vital expression of individuality and community. Mohapeloa was one of many black composers of his time, but he was not South African. He hailed from the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, a country with a very small population that remained outside the polity of late colonial and apartheid rule throughout Mohapeloa’s life (a life briefly sketched below), and ever since, against all economic and political odds. Lesotho impacted on his lifework in ways that only gradually unfold as his work is studied.
With more than 3 000 pages of notated scores and critical apparatus, this edition challenges the tendency to regard African vocal music from southern Africa as largely improvised and un-notated oral, traditional, or popular music. It also challenges the notion that critical editing is the preserve of Western art music, although the music of ‘other cultures’ has been regularly edited and published by ethnomusicologists, as James Grier has observed, with ‘those in which an oral tradition predominates’ posing ‘different problems for the editor’ from notated music (Grier 2016). Because Mohapeloa’s music was notated, it has more in common with Western art music than with any music from a predominantly ‘oral tradition’, even though its sonic fabric is shot through with traditional and popular African styles.
The process of authenticating and editing this music has been largely informed by the editing of Western art music, then. As Grier points out, ‘Editors in ethnomusicology have developed conventions of their own, particularly in regard to notation, that establish their work as an independent field’. A-R Editions, for example (www.areditions.com) produces publications in which the music’s transmission ‘is oral or relies in part on notation as the starting point for improvisation’ (Bohlman 2016).
The tradition of critical editing to which this edition is most indebted is the European style of ‘critique-génétique’, in which editing is ‘based in historical inquiry’, ‘involves the critical evaluation of the semiotic import of the musical text, which is also a historical inquiry’ and relies on ‘the editor’s conception of musical style, which again is rooted in historical understanding’ (Grier Ibid). In Africa, this implies that the editor must have sufficient understanding of the historical background of this music to be able to make informed choices, as well as a fairly comprehensive knowledge of critical editing internationally, and this combined know-how has been the single most difficult challenge to making the present edition. It could only have been met by using expertise in various areas, notably in the Sesotho language. The work remains, however, the Editor’s single-handed endeavour, for better or worse; a journey in the footsteps of a composer whose presence was uncannily felt along the way.
This repertoire, unavailable before in its entirety, gives a remarkable overall account of Mohapeloa’s development as a composer: something not possible before. It also gives a unique and vivid account of African daily life in the mid-twentieth century. Other composers in southern Africa may boast greater outputs or more varied repertoires, but none can reveal as Mohapeloa does, such a monumental narrative of the history, environment, climate, landscape, and working and domestic lives of African people over the course of half a century, miraculous in its expressive totality. Mohapeloa’s music was previously known through a handful of songs that are still sung by choirs throughout southern Africa, sometimes further afield. But it is barely known elsewhere in the world, and despite a growing academic literature on choral music and decades of choral competitions in southern Africa, scholars and choirs outside the competition circuit are generally unaware of such music, and internationally are unaware of this kind of African choral music, never mind as a large repertoire. Such unawareness can even be somewhat shocking.((Haeker’s PhD thesis (2012) for example, includes statements such as these: ‘Most black composers, of which there were few, composed in close imitation of the four-part hymn. Many of these compositions, if written down, employed the tonic sol-fa system, which Christian missionaries taught as a quick means to acclimate blacks to major/minor tonality and the English language. Because most blacks were illiterate, the tonic sol-fa system eventually morphed into dual notation’ (12)))
This edition collects scores from several sources and groups them into six volumes, arranged in more or less chronological order of original publication. With one exception, ((The exception is an unpublished O.A.U. anthem, Freedom in Unity, which exists in two versions: one for unaccompanied choir in tonic solfa and one for solo piano in staff notation. The latter may have been intended to be an accompaniment to the former, but it has more elaborate harmonies, and is thus treated as an independent piano piece.)) all the works were composed in tonic solfa notation and several of them were originally published in books whose integrity is retained: Volumes I-III contain three books published originally in 1935, 1939, and 1947; Volume IV comprises eight songs from a multi-authored church songbook of 1955 together with 39 previously unpublished settings of Psalms and other Biblical texts made for the Dutch Reformed African Mission Church in c.1979; Volume V comprises two songbooks published originally in 1951 and 1976; Volume VI contains individual songs from various periods of Mohapeloa’s life but mostly his later years, some of them previously individually published but the majority not.
Each of the six volumes is duplicated (Vols. Ia to VIa), these ‘a’ versions being identical to Vols I-VI except that tonic solfa notation is added to the scores for the benefit of choristers who do not read staff notation. An audio CD, African Choral Legacy: Historic Recordings of Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa (ACE CD001) provides a companion piece to some of the works and is available online, along with the whole edition (www.african-composers-edition.co.za).
Each volume has a short Preface and a list of Contents. In addition, the Edition provides this General Introduction, a full Catalogue of Works by J.P. Mohapeloa, a List of Sources that are referred to throughout the edition (not only in this General Introduction), and a Pronunciation Guide to the Sesotho Texts, since the music has to be sung in Sesotho and English translations are separate from the scores. The Edition gives these translations and brief historical introductions on the inside front pages of scores, and lists the sources used to prepare each publication on its back pages, with a critical commentary on music-textual issues and variant readings.
Musicology in southern Africa has not been able to depend for decades, as musicology in ‘the West’ (or ‘north’) has, on the groundwork laid by numerous repertoires often produced through critical editions. Early musicology’s interpretive work was heavily dependent upon them, and indeed grew out of historical-analytical work on them, in many cases. The regional musicology of southern Africa developed without equivalent regional foundations, so that producing a critical edition at this point in time feels almost like reverse engineering. Because this edition breaks new ground in many ways, its genealogy and Mohapeloa’s life as a composer as well as the tradition of African choral music within which he worked, require some explanation.
Mohapeloa’s biography in brief
Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa was a Mosotho from the Bataung clan, born in the village of Molumong in the Mokhotlong District of the eastern mountains of Lesotho, on 28 March 1908. ((Information for this biography was culled from several biographical sources, mostly not cited at every turn and thus given here collectively: Mohapeloa, J.P. (1953b), Mohapeloa, J.P. (1951b), Mohapeloa, J.P. (1965), Huskisson (1969), Moeketsi (1981), Mohapeloa, J.M. and Phakisi (1987), Wells (1994), and Gill (1997). Photographs illustrating this biography can be found on www.african-composers-edition.co.za/Mohapeloa.)) His was the third generation of a family converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century by the Swiss-French Protestant missionaries from Paris, the Société des Missions Evangéliques chez les peuples non-chrétiens á Paris [Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS)]. Joshua Pulumo was the fourth of ten children born to Rev. Joel Mohapeloane Mohapeloa and Candace Sehoroane Matong. After elementary schooling in Molumong, Mohapeloa attended the PEMS Training College in the mission station of Morija in the south, which took him to what we would now think of as the end of ‘middle school’, which in those days included teacher training for elementary school. In addition to academic subjects Mohapeloa studied music, music education and tonic solfa, and learnt staff notation, elementary music theory, and harmonium with Florence Mabille (Mohapeloa 1965). He completed a Junior Certificate in 1927 and enrolled in 1928 at the South African Native College (SANC) in the Cape Colony of South Africa, in order to complete the most senior level of schooling, Matriculation, in 1929. ((Matriculation was the school-leaving qualification. SANC is now called Fort Hare University and boasts some famous alumni, including Nelson Mandela. It was at that time the only place in southern Africa where a black person could matriculate.)) He hoped to study medicine after this, but well before the end of 1929 it was clear that he had contracted tuberculosis. He was forced to leave the SANC and go home to his father’s parish in Mohalinyane, western Lesotho. While recuperating here, he began to compose, as a distraction from the difficulties of a correspondence course he was following (to keep up his education) and from his weak condition. His daughter-in-law Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa remembers him telling her:
He was so sad about all that, he used to sit in the forest. Sit there, worry, being alone there. Then, he said to me, he would be listening to the birds chirping, you know. Then he started to, you know, love nature, started to appreciate what was around him. He started to appreciate the countryside. He thought, ‘this is a wonderful country, I can write a lot about it’. (Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa, Author’s Interview, 28 September 2006) ((Nor was he only an appreciative observer of nature: Mohapeloa planted many trees at Molumong and Mohalinyane, as a way of countering the devastating effects of soil erosion due to over-grazing.))
He was exposed to various vocal musics as he grew up, including folksong, tonic solfa songs composed by older Sotho composers, European and African hymns, and choruses from Western opera and oratorio.((Morija Sesuto Book Depot had published a collection of European and Sotho songs called Lipina tsa Likolo tse Phahameng [Songs for High School] in 1907, that follows the format common in nineteenth-century British tonic solfa publications by Novello and Curwen, of reproducing popular choruses from oratorios and operas by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bellini, Donizetti, Weber, Wagner and others. Lipina tsa Likolo also contains a number of ‘Alpine’ folksongs, because it was compiled by Swiss-French missionaries.)) He learnt indigenous stories, dances, games, riddles, tongue-twisters and indeed, as his brother, historian Josias Makibinyane Mohapeloa recalls: ‘the Basotho ways, old and new, that he learned from home, at school, herding, and different kinds of jobs, are evident in many of his songs’. Mohapeloa started a choir at Mohalinyane and tried out his first pieces with them. Their popularity quickly spread to other choirs and districts. By 1934 he had written over 30 songs and in 1935 Morija Sesutu Book Depot published them as Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations, hereafter Meloli I], in tonic solfa notation, with texts in Sesotho. In December 1936 the Morija Training Institution Choir, conducted by Mohapeloa’s neighbour, Bennie Mashologu, recorded eight of them at the Gallo studios in Johannesburg, which are probably among the first African choral songs recorded commercially.((They are the first eight tracks on African Choral Legacy: Historic Recordings of Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa (CD ACE001), published by African Composers Edition as a companion to this Critical Edition. Thanks are due to Rob Allingham for alerting me to the whereabouts of these tracks.))
In 1939 Mohapeloa produced his second songbook, Meloli II, and after ‘a year’s intensive revision work on the rudiments’, ((The quote comes from a proposal Mohapeloa made for a study trip abroad in 1968. (See ‘HTC-H051-01’, in the folder 'High Commissioner-006' in the Hugh Tracey Correspondence Collection, International Library of African Music, Grahamstown.)) he took some courses part-time in the Music Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with the aid of a scholarship given by Basutoland’s Director of Education. Mohapeloa attended lectures by Percival Kirby (who, it is sometimes forgotten, was a composer: he had studied at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford) and by music theory lecturer W.P. Paff. Mohapeloa’s student record at Wits shows that he passed ‘History of Music A.1’ in 1939, ‘History of Music II’ and ‘Counterpoint & Harmony’ in 1940, Counterpoint & Harmony’ in 1941, and ‘Composition only’ in 1942. These did not constitute complete years of study and Mohapeloa thus could not complete a degree or even a diploma, but the musical techniques he learnt reveal themselves as an expansion of his musical grammar in works written after 1942.((Course details published in the University Calendars of the time list specific techniques, although whether or not these were helpful (or indeed studied by Mohapeloa) is debatable. In 1976 he told David Coplan in an interview, ‘I thought history was not worth listening to’. DC: ‘Because there wasn’t any history of African music…’ JP: ‘Yes, yes’.)) Changes in compositional style in Meloli III (1947) and comments he later made in interviews with David Coplan (1976 and 1978) show how he wrestled with such new knowledge and with its affect on his work. Mohapeloa was allowed to study a component of a course that was called ‘Composition only’ at Wits after three years, in 1942, and no details are given in the University Calendar about exactly what this course, which could potentially have been the most useful to him, comprised.
A 34-year-old African composer steeped in Sotho folk music and mission-trained styles of choral writing (in tonic solfa) must have struck an odd chord at Wits in the late 1930s. Kirby makes no mention of Mohapeloa in his autobiography, Wits End (1967) although he mentions dozens of other former students. Composer Stanley Glasser, who was an economics student at Wits when Mohapeloa was there, warmly remembers ‘Josh’, recalling that Kirby and Paff ‘were highly impressed with Mohapeloa as a musical phenomenon, remarking on his musicianship, originality and imagination of his pieces and somewhat puzzled as what best to do for him’.((Glasser, Stanley. 2009. Letter to author, 8 June.))
Maybe Mohapeloa’s absence in Wits End owed something to Kirby’s dim view of African choral music:
[its] form is of the most rudimentary nature, consisting chiefly of orthodox musical sentences without a trace of the devices used by European composers to mitigate the ‘squareness’ of the design or to inject vitality into the melody or character into the harmony. In other words, with very few exceptions, our African composers have made little advance in their art during the last half-century. (Kirby 1979, 85)
Perhaps he regarded Mohapeloa as an anomaly, but Mohapeloa clearly felt indebted to Kirby, because he asked that his first-born grandson receive the English middle name, Percival (Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa, Author’s Interview, 28 September 2006).
While on the Reef, the area around Johannesburg where coal and platinum mines are located, Mohapeloa survived economically by running a choir, the Johannesburg Traditional Choristers. After he returned to Morija, he conducted the church choir, and later formed a community choir called the Baithaopi [Volunteers] Society. He began his day-job, working at the Morija Printing Works as a proof reader, in 1945, the year that he married Mary Stimmiri. They raised four children together, and he stayed at the Printing Works until his retirement in 1973, afterwards teaching music at the National Teachers’ Training College in Maseru, which had been founded in 1975. Aside from attending the Kitwe All African Church Music Conference in Zambia in 1963, Mohapeloa never went beyond the borders of South Africa, although it is clear from a funding proposal that he wrote in 1968 (see footnote 9 above) that he was keen to travel abroad in order to expand his musical horizons. Mohapeloa was still involved in teaching and conducting when he died on 13 January 1982.
Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa is buried in the graveyard on the eastern edge of Morija, and in 2011 a tombstone was erected by the family, sponsored by the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO). Mohapeloa was a member of SAMRO and all his music is still under copyright at this point in time, with SAMRO administering the rights. He was also a founder ‘African’ member of Hugh Tracey’s African Music Society (African Music Society 1948a and 1948b; there was a separate category of membership for Africans). He was awarded an OBE by the British Government in 1961, a Knighthood of the Order of Ramats’eatsana (KCOR) by the Lesotho Government in 1976, and an Honorary D.Litt. from the University of Lesotho in 1978. An obituary published in the newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho [The little light of Lesotho] mentions that he was an honourable member of the Organization of Sesotho Writers, and that the King and Queen of Lesotho attended his funeral (Leselinyana le Lesotho 1982, 1).
Overview of the tradition of African choral music in southern Africa
Mohapeloa belonged to a compositional lineage launched by John Knox Bokwe, ‘the father of black South African choral composition’ (Olwage 2010/2011, 18), whose first notated composition, Msindisi Wa Boni, was published in 1875 and was followed by more than 30 pieces in as many years. With these works and the performance practice culture that Bokwe and others established at first in mission schools and colleges, certain norms in the field of African choral music were created that persist to the present day. ‘His own biography became a template’, as Olwage puts it: a ‘self-taught composer [who] composes almost exclusively for voice; is typically also a choral conductor; and for whom choral practice is a part-time activity’ (Ibid). S/he also typically writes in tonic solfa notation, a medieval sight-singing method revived in Victorian Britain by John Curwen in the early 1840s as an educational tool and exported to the Cape Colony’s black mission schools (Ibid).
Bokwe’s choral music was published between 1875 and 1922 by Lovedale Press and includes several works in the early South African collection of songs and hymns, Amaculo ase Lovedale (1885). All Bokwe’s manuscripts in Rhodes University’s Cory Library for Historical Research are in staff notation. His music was strongly influenced by British Victorian or American revivalist hymnody, displaying an SATB choral style that Olwage describes as ‘resolutely metropolitan’ (Ibid, 19; Olwage’s exegesis of this style elsewhere (Olwage 2003) offers a very different perspective from Kirby, above). The magnetic attraction to such metropolitan styles by composers at the periphery of empire, scattered throughout southern Africa, was to remain a characteristic feature of African choral music’s history.
Bokwe also left us with another first, which balances his metropolitanism: transcriptions of musical fragments that date back to indigenous chants ascribed to the first Christian convert in the eastern Cape Colony, Chief Ntsikana Gaba (c.1780-1821). One of these fragments is called Ulo Tixo Mkulu [Thou Great God], which became known as ‘Ntsikana’s Great Hymn’ (Bokwe n.d. c.1904) and is possibly the first written record of African music passed down orally from the early colonial era. Bokwe thus set in motion the hybrid Western-African musical characteristics that have pervaded African choral music, whose language re-imagines in four-part harmony church, classical, and popular styles and is inflected with the ‘traditional’ from various regional African cultures. This creolised new African choral music, so absolutely not the monolithic ‘rudimentary’ style derived solely from hymns as viewed by people from Kirby (1979) to Haeker (2012), was paralleled by the development of another choral tradition, isicathamiya, and by the development of South African indigenous church music and gospel. But notated choral syncretism became more widespread and varied than these genres did, as a vehicle of communal expression and protest, as has been observed by a number of writers (see for example Mngoma (1981), Mthethwa (1988), Pewa (1995), and Mugovhani (1998)).((While monitoring protest action as a member of the anti-apartheid organisation, Black Sash, in the Durban area during the 1980s, I heard Matyila’s Bawo Tixo Somandla and Mohapeloa’s Molelekeng sung spontaneously during political meetings and marches.)) Bokwe’s peers and immediate successors include Tiyo Soga and Enoch Sontonga, the latter most famous for his hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, adopted by the South African Native Congress (SANC) as a closing song at meetings in 1919. In an extended version, it became the anthem of the SANC’s heir, the African National Congress (ANC), and since 1994 has been sung as part one of the new South African national anthem (see Coplan 2008).
The third generation of African choral composers, more or less contemporary with Mohapeloa, includes Michael Mosoeu Moerane, Reuben Tholakele Caluza, Daniel Cornel Marivate, Benjamin John Peter Tyamzashe, Archibald Arnold Mxolisi Matyila, and Hamilton John Makhoza Masiza. Their work was advanced through competitions and mission publishers such as Lovedale Press in the Eastern Cape (a British Methodist mission), Morija Sesuto Book Depot (MSBD) in Lesotho (Paris Evangelical Lutheran), and Mazenod Institute in Lesotho (Roman Catholic). These presses were among the first publishers of African choral music: Mohapeloa’s first four songbooks were published in the 1930s-50s by MSBD and other songs by MSBD and Mazenod in the 50s and 60s. More commercial publishers became involved in the later twentieth century, including Shuter and Shooter in Pietermaritzburg who published selections of P.J. Simelane and A.A. Khumalo, and (atypically) Oxford University Press who published Mohapeloa’s fifth song collection in 1976.
Educational publishers supplied small tonic solfa books to the newly burgeoning State school systems of countries such as South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, and Lesotho, so they had a guaranteed large market. Composers of the past fifty years, who include Mike Ngxokolo, Makhaya Mjana, L.B.M. Chonco, Thanduxolo Ngqobe, Shalati Khoza, and Phelelani Mnomiya, could no longer rely on this market, only on the prescription of their works for competitions, ensuring sporadic performances but insignificant income. Considering the size of the repertoire, few African choral works have in fact been transcribed into staff notation since Bokwe’s time, and those few were mainly transcribed for competitions. In 1998 the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) began publishing a series of African choral scores in ‘dual notation’ called South Africa Sings which are useful study scores (Khumalo 1998, 2008, 2013); and SAMRO reproduces individual scores on demand. Publication remains, however a major lack in this field, and was a strong motivating factor behind the appearance of this new critical edition.
The history of publication relates intimately to different histories of practice among black southern African choirs, to the emergence of the black middle class in the early twentieth century, and to the different religious or education systems to which people were exposed. The tradition of ‘amakwaya’ or ‘iikwayala’ as it is often called (from the Zulu or Xhosa words for choir) is older than the first inter-institutional choral competitions, that date back at least to 1931, when the newly formed South African Bantu Board of Music first held competitions in the Johannesburg area (Vokwana 2004). These competitions, which initially had instrumental as well as vocal categories, prescribed songs annually for some years, enriching the repertoire already developing for classroom use. Conductor-teachers often taught songs by rote because scores were precious resources, and rehearsals were held almost daily. (This is still common practice.) But although tonic solfa songs have proliferated and styles have increasingly taken on regional inflections during the course of southern Africa’s volatile twentieth-century history, choral practice itself has remained fairly unchanged. It remains a community-based, amateur practice, with the majority of choristers unable to read staff notation, rote learning predominating, and competition the centrifugal force holding the practice together.
Annual competitions are organised for school, church, and adult choirs. Lesotho, where Mohapeloa lived and worked, has its own competitions, although some Sotho choirs also participate in South Africa’s much larger competition field. The competitions have a lot in common with sport: choirs are like teams, with managers jealously guarding their success and coaches to do the ‘drill’ of note learning. Throughout the year, prescribed pieces are rehearsed in two categories, ‘Western’ (e.g. Handel), and ‘African’ (e.g. Mohapeloa), with traditional song/dance also performed in the choir’s regional folk costume, nowadays not usually by the choir itself. Choirs pay to enter the regional and provincial rounds of these competitions which culminate in national finals in one of the major cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban – or in the case of Lesotho its capital, Maseru.
Competitions have evolved almost beyond recognition from their humble beginnings into a big business run by the National Choir Festival (NCF), which in the past worked in conjunction with corporates such the Ford Motor Company, Standard Bank, and Telkom, and now works with the Old Mutual insurance and banking group. ((See the Old Mutual website http://dogreatthings.co.za/music/national-choir-festival/regional-championships/2013-prescribed-music.)) The affect of ‘massive monetary incentives’ on the culture of choralism as a result of this interface between music and corporate strategy has been critically observed by Thembela Vokwana (2004, 3). Competition finals have been recorded for radio since the 1960s and for television since the 1980s. The NCF makes its own in-house videos that are sold at the following year’s competitions, but these films do not circulate much more widely than this, and are edited to focus on singing rather than on composers, whose names are often not given.
African choral performance is a social as well as musical practice, a reason for showing communal solidarity, not only by participating in competitions but also by singing at weddings and funerals: acts performed by the community for the community. Choralism is a habit, a way of life, sometimes even an obsession of which the NCF Facebook page gives daily confirmation; a major after-hours commitment for people who are working or studying, and a social forum, especially for the unemployed.
Since the first quarter of the twentieth century, external influence has brought about many changes to compositional style and vocal technique, although the African choir from southern Africa retains a vocal sound unlike that of any other choir in the world. White adjudicators have in the past (for better or worse) influenced tone production, phrasing, and intonation – as deemed important to Western styles of choral singing. So have recordings: as soon as prescribed works are announced at the beginning of each year, practitioners rush off to find recordings of the Western works, on which – perhaps because there are recordings to emulate – they seem to spend a great deal more rehearsal time than on the indigenous works, according to laments on Facebook (see also Ndlovu 1997).
Listening to African choir recordings housed in the SABC Radio Sound Archive since the early 1960s, one becomes aware how singing styles have changed. Vibrato, for example, entered the sound only in the early 1980s, perhaps under the influence of operatic or popular music heard on radio, or the rise of the CD. ((A notable example is the Matthews Singers’ SABC transcription recording made in 1980, now housed in the SABC Radio Sound Archive in Johannesburg (LT17863/4, digitised in 1997 as CDT903). The female voices have a striking vibrato, in contrast to most other Mohapeloa recordings from the same year. By 1990, vibrato is the norm on these SABC transcription recordings and now dominates the vocal sound. )) Conducting styles have also changed, to judge from the difference between older and more recent interpretations. The amount repertoire choirs know has changed less: memorisation of a tiny repertoire for singing repeatedly at local, regional and national (annual) competitions is still the major focus of practice, rather than learning a new or wider repertoire, let alone for presentation outside competitions, never mind for making commercial recordings, which (therefore) barely exist. It short, it is still very much an in-house practice, and it is unlikely that any choir today knows more than a handful of Mohapeloa’s songs.
In an unpublished essay on choral music written in 2004, ‘Expressions in Black’, Thembela Vokwana identifies four main ‘expressions’ in choral music that had emerged by the end of the twentieth century:
models. (Christian themes, nature appreciation and [themes of] love obviously borrowed from the literature of the English canonic masters read in schools as well as the Bible.)
These outline a history of practice in which many musical and extra-musical elements are involved, a practice developing through a huge repertoire of works by many composers over more than a century. In her dictionary The Bantu Composers of Southern Africa, Yvonne Huskisson wrote entries on 318 composers (Huskisson 1969). A 1992 supplement contained many new entries on younger composers, and yet she still regarded her research as representing only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ (Huskisson 1992, back cover). Assuming, at a conservative estimate, that there have been about 500 composers since Bokwe, each composing an average of 100 songs, the total repertoire that has emerged historically could amount to 50 000 works. Many of these are lost, however, because very few were published and because manuscripts rarely survive. This is Gebrauchtsmusik, written for immediate use, and committed to choral memories that may not outlive more than one or two generations. ((An urgent project of collection and archiving awaits here.)) Mohapeloa was extremely unusual in having so many works published during his lifetime, reissued in several editions.
Aside from publication, a partial survival rate for this repertoire has been guaranteed through hand-copying and (later) electronic copying, for competitions or other occasions. It can be argued that African choral songs are seldom regarded by practitioners as ‘works’ in a generic sense but rather as vehicles for competition singing. That this is crucial to the survival of culture, indeed people, is not in dispute here, but given this history of choral music’s use it is perhaps not surprising that the Mohapeloa Critical Edition is the first complete body of work by an African choral composer that has ever been considered as a body of work. Even within the literature on choral music – and publications aside from those already mentioned include Nhlapo and Khumalo (1993) – the consideration of this music as ‘work’ or ‘works’ is unusual.
The use of ‘work’, ‘song’, and ‘catalogue’ in this edition
If there is one place where the ‘work-concept’ probably still has currency, it is a complete critical edition, the purpose of which is to make available a new version of all works authored by one person.
In this case, Mohapeloa is author of the texts and composer of the music. His works are registered with the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) and the copyright that subsists in them is held by his legal heirs, Mrs Ntsiuoa Joyce Mohapeloa (the composer’s daughter-in-law) and Joshuoa Pulumo Mohapeloa, her son and the composer’s grandson. They have granted permission for African Composers Edition to collect, edit and publish Mohapeloa’s works in this edition. This concept of ‘work’, the legal one, reminds us that putatively, all songs written by Mohapeloa remain under copyright until 50 years after his death (2032). ((Intellectual property law in southern Africa is complex, and heirs’ rights are governed by various factors, one of which is how IP was assigned or transferred by the original owner.))
The concept of work generally referred to in this edition is a generic one, and the word identifying it in southern Africa is not normally ‘work’ but ‘song’. It is common in the African choral tradition to refer to indigenous composed works as songs rather than choral pieces, choir music, choruses, or part songs – some of the terms used in the West. ‘Song’ in the West implies ‘art song’ – solo song with piano accompaniment – and a few African composers have written ‘art songs’ in this sense, too (see Uzoigwe 1992, Euba 1993, and van Rhyn 2013), but not Mohapeloa.
‘Song’ in the African choral tradition usually denotes a short unaccompanied work for SATB, sometimes with additional voices, an extra Alto or Tenor being Mohapeloa’s preference. The word for ‘song’ in most southern African languages is synonymous with either ‘music’ or ‘dance’: ‘umculo’ or ‘ingoma’ in isiZulu, for example. Some vernacular words capture the influence the West has had on indigenous song: the Sesotho word ‘lifela’ for example reflects the introduction of hymn tunes. The most common Sesotho word for choir song is ‘lipina’, derived from ‘’mino’, which is ‘an abbreviation of mobino, derived from the verb ho bina, to sing’ (Wells 1994, 5). Mohapeloa preferred to create new words, such as ‘meloli’ (whistles), ‘lithallere’ (songs sung with trained voices), or ‘meluluetsa’ (ululations); and the title of his 1951 songbook was Khalima-nosi tsa ’Mino oa Kajeno, where the word ‘’mino’ is combined with ‘Khalima-nosi’ to create a phrase that literally means, ‘shining stars’ – or perhaps ‘gems’ – ‘of today’s music’. Mohapeloa’s experiments should not been seen in the narrow sense of (re)naming only, but as attempts to forge a new path in a very wide field: the African practice of singing as cultural expression, a practice so widespread, ingrained, and embodied that it was possible for historian Helen Kivnick to declare, on the brink of South Africa’s new democracy in 1990:
It is through their singing that Black South Africans most publicly assert their cooperative identity. And we may be sure that when South Africa’s people draft a constitution that allows them all to live together in true justice and equality, when they install their first truly democratic elected government, these political milestones will have the sound – quite literally – of more than 28 million voices singing. (Kivnick 1990, 336).
The need for a catalogue for this edition is related to its rationale, which is, first, to make available a large repertoire by a composer writing in an African choral tradition nearly 150 years old; and second, to present that composer’s repertoire critically in a way that highlights African music’s relation to Western modernity while revealing its African-ness and its creole-ness. No catalogue of Mohapeloa’s songs existed when work on this edition began. The new Catalogue of Works by J.P. Mohapeloa lists all his songs, each work assigned a ‘JPM’ number – like BWV numbers for Bach but in this case based on Mohapeloa’s initials – and each score an ‘ACE’ number, ACE being the acronym of the publisher, African Composers Edition. There are two ACE numbers per work because there are two versions of every score, one in staff notation only and one in staff notation with tonic solfa added. Thus the first song in Vol. 1, U Ea Kae? (Where Are You Headed?), is listed in the catalogue as JPM001/ACE001 and JPM001/ACE002. Each ACE work is also assigned a sequential ISMN (International Standard Music Number). ((In southern Africa ISMNs are supplied by the National Library in Pretoria. ))
This Edition follows the New Grove practice of giving titles of volumes and song collections in italics and using single quotation marks for individual songs when they are cited from collections, but otherwise using italics for individual songs, which are treated in this edition as separate works. The song collections in Volumes I-V are only collections, not cycles: not intended to be performed in their entirety although they could be, and there is a certain integrity of style to each volume with patterns of subject matter emerging within collections. Mohapeloa’s songs are known in the African choral community by individual titles and performed individually, and some began life as ‘occasion’ pieces even if they were later put into collections.
The total number of Mohapeloa songs previously published in tonic solfa notation collections is 132, a figure that does not count reissues of songs in other publications (see below). Fifty-one extant previously unpublished miscellaneous songs and psalm settings are also published here for the first time, making the total number of works in this edition 183. Furthermore, there are a number of titles for which scores have not yet been found. ((The obituary mentioned above (Leselinyana 1982, 1) includes the phrase, “During his life we can estimate that Mr J.P. composed 200 songs”. The Preface to Volume VI has a list of possible missing works at the end.))
None of the songs is numbered, but in the revised 2016 edition pagination is continuous rather than confined to a volume. Other revisions include increasing all main type face to 12 point, correcting typos (although some will still have slipped through), and editing all texts written by the Editor, including this General Introduction and 183 ‘historical introductions’ on the scores.
Previous publication of Mohapeloa’s work
Mohapeloa’s songs published during his lifetime in five tonic solfa songbooks devoted to his music, and their reprints, are primary sources for this new edition and are listed below, with details of each reprint. ((The technical difference between a new edition, where there are changes even if pagination remains the same, and a reprint, where there are no changes at all, is not consistently adopted in the different printings. The fifth book, Meluluetsa, was the only one not reprinted. )) The fact that they were reprinted several times testifies to their once widespread use – especially in Lesotho’s schools – but studying the reprints also reveals minor typographical errors and also, more interestingly, microscopic musical rethinks on Mohapeloa’s part.
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika (African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations). Morija, Lesotho: Morija SesutoBook Depot. 1st ed. 1935; 2nd ed. 1953; 1st reprint 1977; 2nd reprint 1983; 3rd reprint 1988. ((It was not called ‘Book 1’ until the 1988 edition.)) (32 songs.)
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika II: Buka ea Bobeli (African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations Book 2). Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st ed. 1939; 2nd ed. 1945; 3rd ed. 1955; 4th ed. 1980; 5th ed. 1996. (32 songs.)
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III: Buka ea Boraro (African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations Book 3). Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st ed. 1947; 2nd printing 1966; 3rd reprint 1977; 4th reprint 1983; 5th reprint 1988. (28 songs, including three republished later in Meluluetsa: ‘TY’, ‘Maseru’ and ‘Mafeteng’ – see below.)
Khalima-nosi tsa ’Mino oa Kajeno: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st ed. 1951; 1st reprint 2002. (Five songs.)
Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho. (Anthems for the Development of the Lesotho Nation). Foreword by Dibarata Ghosh. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. 1976; out of print. (25 songs, including several previously published elsewhere.)
Mohapeloa numbered his 92 songs in the first three songbooks consecutively: MLA I begins with no. 1, MLA II begins with no. 33 and MLA III begins with no. 65. He intended Meluluetsa to be published by MSBD as MLA IV but was persuaded to give them to Oxford University Press instead. (( Mohapeloa, J.P. 1962. Letter to Yvonne Huskisson, 3 August; and Mohapeloa, J.P. 1963. Letter to Yvonne Huskisson, 18 November. (‘Korrespondensie’ [Correspondence], Huskisson Collection, SAMRO, file ‘Mohapeloa, J.P.’); and Ambrose, David. 2012. Conversation with author, July 2012. )) The five songs in Khalima-nosi show new trends in modern African music, as the title suggests, and provide a transition between Mohapeloa’s ‘school’ songs of the 1930s and 40s and mature patriotic works from the post-war 1950s and post-Lesotho-Independence 1970s. ((The Protectorate of Basutoland attained independence from Britain as the Kingdom of Lesotho, in 1966.))
In addition to these five Mohapeloa songbooks, eight of his songs appeared in a multi-composer collection of worship music called Hosanna: Lipina tsa Kereke (Hosannah: Church Songs) (Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st and 2nd ed. 1955). These are ‘Balisa’, ‘Hosanna’, ‘Christmas’, ‘O, Phokolang’, ‘Molimo ke Moea’, ‘Silevera le Gauda’, ‘Ahe Moren’a Khanya!’ and ‘Na le ’Na?’. ‘Molimo ke Moea’ had already appeared in the Sotho hymnal Lifela tsa Zione in 1939 (see below). Two other Mohapeloa songs appeared in another collection of worship music, Binang ka Thabo(Songs of Joy): ‘Leheshe-heshe’ and ‘Lehlomela la Thesele le Letle-letle’ (Mazenod: Mazenod Institute. 1st ed. 1963). This book contained four other Mohapeloa songs later republished in Meluluetsa: ‘Leribe’, ‘Butha-Buthe’, ‘Maloti a Lesotho’, and ‘Quthing’. To recap, these are the songs that appeared in more than one publication:
‘Molimo ke Moea’ was first published by MSBD as hymn no. 445 in the 1939 edition of the Lutheran Evangelical Church (LEC) hymnal, Lifela tsa Zione. ((Ambrose, David. 2014. Letter to author, 24 June. Lifela tsa Zione is the most widely used hymn book in southern Africa, and is reprinted almost every year by MSBD.))
‘Morija’ (MLA II/38), ‘The Gay Night Birds’ (MLA III/77), and ‘Thoko ea Tlhōlo’ (MLA III/92) were also published by MSBD as separate leaflets.
‘Coronation March’ (MLA II/64) was originally published in the Basutoland Teacher’s Magazine in 1937 in honour of the coronation of Britain’s King George V (Mohapeloa 1937); in 1939 and 1945 this version was reprinted but in the 1955 3rd edition of MLA II the lyrics were adapted to take account of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
‘TY’ (MLA II/35), ‘Mafeteng’ (MLA II/55), and ‘Maseru’ (MLA II/64) – republished in Meluluetsa as songs no. 20, 22, and 21 respectively.
Lesotho Tsiketsi sa Tlotla ea Afrika and Moshoeshoe, Tsoha – originally published in the Souvenir Programme of the 1966 Lesotho Independence Celebrations (Morija Sesuto Book Depot 1966, 13-14).
‘Maloti a Lesotho’ (MNBL/15), ‘Butha-Buthe’ (MNBL/18), ‘Leribe’ (MNBL/19), and ‘Quthing’ (MNBL/24) – originally published in Binang ka Thabo.
Composition, publication, and dissemination of Mohapeloa’s music
The first edition of Meloli I gives an idea of how Mohapeloa’s music was marketed and disseminated. It was first published in 1935 by Morija Sesuto Book Depot (MSBD), Lesotho, a modest educational mission press that for decades had been publishing school text books, religious books, songs, hymnals and other material, for markets all over southern Africa. An advertisement in the newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho on 23 August 1935 proudly announced:
This book that we are introducing to preachers, teachers, and the Basotho in general from Lesotho and South Africa, is the first of its kind. There are many songs here, composed by a Mosotho, a child of Lesotho, the one whose name appears above. We’ve been hearing some of these songs for quite a while, some in schools, both outside and inside, in praise of fine song. Today we have all these songs together in one book, a book that has been printed well, and which is easy to read. Let everyone rush and buy it, to show that we are rejoicing, and let us give thanks to the first Mosotho composer; because we can now teach his beautiful songs and follow the rules he has shown us in the way that he has presented them. (Leselinyana le Lesotho 1935, 4) ((It cost 2s 9d plus 3d for postage (Leselinyana le Lesotho 1935, 4).))
Mohapeloa was not the first person in Basutoland to compose songs, his ‘love for and understanding of music [having been] founded and honed by’ previous Sotho composers Hope Mosaase, Jeremiah ’Makoa, Stephen Mosaase, and W. Buti; ‘strong men and forerunners of education in the mountain region’ (Mohapeloa 1965, 1). Expanding their templates and using Basotho traditional music, hymns, quasi ‘African songs’ written by European settlers such as A.M. Jones and a handful of Western classical pieces in tonic solfa notation, he forged a new vernacular choral idiom. At the same time, even perhaps unwittingly, he established a new African literary genre, the song lyric. There was clearly something unusual in this collection that made Mohapeloa’s publisher – hype aside – to call him ‘the first Mosotho composer’.
How were these songs composed, and what did the publisher mean by ‘We’ve been hearing some of these songs for quite a while’? Historian J.M. Mohapeloa, the composer’s brother, explains in his biographical study of the composer:
At the beginning he wrote a few lines, he would then test this with two to three people to hear how it sounded. He would continue with the short song, changing it here and there. He would try it again, and then make changes. He would continue doing this until he had a complete song which was sung by a choir that he formed. It was also sung by other schools … That choir which Pulumo started continued to grow and its other work was to test the new songs that were composed … It did not end there. [The choir] started entertainments. At first it sang at Mahalinyane. It then visited branches in Liphiring, Makhaleng and Tsoloane. Pulumo was encouraged by the way people enjoyed his music … [H]is songs were generally loved; other groups, in addition to Pulumo’s choir, started performing his songs. Those singers visited far places such as Siloe, Thabana-Morena, Mohales Hoek, Mafeteng, Hermon, Maseru and other directions. They went outside Lesotho, and went as far as Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Johannesburg. (Mohapeloa and Phakisi 1987, 18-19)
Such rapid oral dissemination of the music even before it was published was nurtured by the way music and text appealed to ‘Basotho in general from Lesotho and South Africa’, as the publisher said – and there are more Sotho speakers living outside Lesotho in surrounding South Africa than in Lesotho itself. It was recognisably national, ‘our music’. Basutoland was a fragmented country, and the songs spoke to a wide range of people living in scattered villages who constituted an imagined Basotho community: it can be argued that people were united in their Basotho-ness through these songs. This sense of a shared heritage was enhanced by the way the songs drew on the familiar: folksongs, dances, stories, styles drawn from the hymnal Lifela tsa Sione, which must have made people warm to his new idiom. He gave them something that spoke to their heritage, even while he reimagined and reinvented that heritage for choir, in 4, 5, or occasionally 6 or 8 parts. ((For more on how he does this, see Lucia (2011a).))
Meloli I’s appearance coincided with the expansion of the education system in the Protectorate of Basutoland during the 1930s. Several new schools were built, including Basutoland High School in Maseru which opened in 1939 (one of the founding teachers was Michael Mosoeu Moerane), and there was a new impetus to learn songs from tonic solfa scores (Gilbert Ramatlapeng, Author’s Interview 4 April 2014; see also Ambrose 1963). Mr T.T.E. Pitso from Maseru, who was went to school during the 1930s and knew Mohapeloa, explains in an interview with Christine Lucia what happened in those days:
TP From my early days in primary school, Mohapeloa’s songs came in handy, at a time when the country needed songs like his in the schools, in particular. I was up in the mountains, a remote school called Lesatseng Primary School.
CL And his music was even known up there?
TP It was all over Lesotho.
CL How did you learn it?
TP We were made to read tonic solfa, sing different parts.
‘For the coming generations’
Mohapeloa prefaced the 1935 1st edition of Meloli I with a composer’s statement, ‘Re E-s’o Qale!’ [Before We Start]. This is quoted below in full, because it explains Mohapeloa’s intention with respect to the time and place in which his compositions first appeared in print, and conveys a sense of his struggle to blend old and new, musically:
Re E-s’o Qale! [Before We Start]
It is well known that to the Black nations of Africa music holds a special place. From days of old to modern times, a Mosotho has sung in his language; sometimes singing sad songs of death or songs of joy that move him to stomp with his feet. Music allows him to bring out all that is in his heart.
It’s also been observed by many that this accomplished singing by Africans has been changing with time. A song of a Mosotho of old was repetitive; even though it was a beautiful melody that was made even better by good lyrics and good singing; often the group of words were not more than two; and sounds of the song that are unequal in pitch, not over five (pentatonic). Today we speak in foreign languages and we even sing these ‘doremifa’ [solfa letters] which even children playing out in the street hum out as ‘tralala’. Africanness or old Sesotho is gradually disappearing; what remains of it, has a strong smell of foreignness.
Here, we are striving to embellish and enjoy. All existing sounds have been used to depict all sorts of feelings, irrespective of whether they are African or foreign. However, the two groupings [African/foreign] will somewhat distinguish themselves; although they are not standing out in the true sense because we are like the Mosotho of today who speaks two languages at the same time and is not proficient in any of the two, twisting the foreign language towards Sesotho while bending Sesotho towards that foreign language.
We have totally failed to create the loud song of men ‘sehou, pina ea banna’ because in an attempt to have a joyous mood, instead of coming up with two groups of words we have several groups. Even in this grouping of two (the foreign one) we have failed to stick to the usual form, which has clear rules that are well known by those who have read the letters of the big accomplished musicians from overseas. We don’t really follow those rules here [the rules of Western harmony and voicing]. When the sound of the song goes in this direction, instead of allowing it to follow the right path, we threw in three or four notes here and there to embellish the song to create nice songs, ‘lithallere’. It is for these reasons that we are not calling this book a book of songs but a book of sounds and nice songs, ‘meloli le lithallere’ as is, indeed, the case.
Accomplished singers, let’s sing together with understanding, because you have sharp ears and your voices are sweeter than Lesiba [traditional Sotho end-blown string instrument]. Your joy and sadness touch your heart best when they are conveyed in song. Even you bad singers, I invite you to sing along; loudly too. Whatever happens will happen; after all, the Sesotho idiom ‘even the bad singer is allowed to sing for his king’ covers you. As for you who are off-tune: don’t worry, just wait for the song to drag and go real low as it gets out of tune; now throw in a stone [i.e. kill it]. Let us sing together like true Africans! for this thing called song is our speciality. (Mohapeloa 1935b)
Mohapeloa’s experience as a composer negotiating between African and Western musical values is wonderfully stated here, and his reference to ‘African’ and ‘foreign’ elements invites closer analytical study of his music by future scholars in order to see how he effected such a negotiation.
In the 1953 edition of Meloli I Mohapeloa expands on the Preface, calling it ‘Khoro’ [Gateway], and adding a final section in which he says,
As long as all our songs are published, the case of African music will be placed completely on the forehead of the court [‘lekhotla’] and African Music will be in the right place, where it is kept for the coming generations, as an example that they can follow, or a place to start when investigating about what proper African music should be. (Mohapeloa 1953b, 3)
This adds a new dimension to his lament in the 1935 preface, that ‘Africanness or old Sesotho is gradually disappearing [and] what remains of it, has a strong smell of foreignness’. In 1953 comes the notion that the ‘right place’ for African music to be preserved for future generations is the printed tonic solfa songbook. Such a notion would seem extraordinary to a Western conductor or music scholar today (and some ethnomusicologists), and would probably have been abhorrent to Hugh Tracey; but it was a normal idea to Mohapeloa, brought up musically in a dual culture of mission school and traditional music.
The ‘foreign-ness’ of the songs, as Mohapeloa’s publisher hints in the 1935 advertisement for Meloli I quoted earlier, comes from the idea that these were ‘nice songs’ that somewhat ‘followed the Western rules’ – meaning, Western ways of writing for voices in four parts. The music showed other Basotho that a Basotho composer had mastered a certain style of Western vocal harmony. As Mohapeloa implies (above), these are not just Basotho traditional songs arranged on paper, songs in two or three parts with one cycle of material repeated in varying ways; they are composed songs, written in four-part harmony, with phrases, sections, repeats, sometimes dynamics, and, moreover, quite complex texts written by Mohapeloa himself.
The part-writing in Mohapeloa’s music is, indeed, often very lively, and there can be two lyrics in parallel; the four-part texture sometimes breaks into five or six voices or reduces to three; there are sudden changes of rhythm and harmony; the Soprano parts often lie quite high – indeed all the ranges are wide and require strong, flexible voices; the Bass often goes below the staff, recalling the deep style of Basotho men’s traditional singing, ‘mokhorotlo’ or ‘mohobelo’; the Sesotho lyrics are not easy even for native speakers; and tempi can be quite fast. Mohapeloa is aware of phrasing and the need to breathe, but he makes few concessions to amateur singers. Good intonation, breath control, accurate ensemble, tone production adequate to their expressive nature, and regular practice are all needed in order to do justice to the performance of these songs. Although there are folk elements too – in some of the texts, in the use of pentatonic melodies, in the way some sections are harmonised according to root movement by a 2nd rather than a 4th or 5th, in the strong bass lines – these are far from being simply folk song arrangements; nor are they hymns.
This is really a new and strange, unfamiliar musical territory: songs based on a Western notion of unaccompanied choral music but with Lesotho lyrics, and with elements of Basotho folk music, dance, and poetry and Western harmony. Songs that challenge, but play with language and sound. As Mohapeloa puts it in his 1935 Preface: ‘All existing sounds have been used to depict all sorts of feelings, irrespective of whether they are African or foreign’.
‘A book of sounds and nice songs’
If this was a thoroughly hybrid new genre, then, how should it be – or would it have been – sung? Clearly Mohapeloa did not intend the songs in Meloli I to be sung like traditional music, using what he refers to above as ‘sharp’ singing, but with trained voices. This way of singing probably lies behind the idea of ‘nice song’, which relates to the meaning of the word ‘lithallere’ in the title of Volume 1 of this edition.
From 1922 to 1927 Mohapeloa attended Morija Training Institution, commonly known as ‘Thabeng Normal School’ a middle school, between primary and senior secondary level. ‘[In] the years before Pulumo went to this school’, his brother J.M. Mohapeloa writes, ‘music at this school was a bit “sharp”’. When a song was mentioned, he says, people ‘would stand up already shouting. When they sing they would mingle, and move side-ways until they made a circle. When they were done forming the circle the song was also finished!’. J.P. Mohapeloa recalled in an interview with David Coplan in 1976 how in addition, at primary school, ‘We sang European composed songs. The words rather terribly distorted, because we couldn’t pronounce the English words. Sometimes we didn’t know what we were singing about. We enjoyed the noise’. ((Interview with David Coplan, 1976, card 1.)) This kind of ‘noisy’ or ‘sharp’ singing – whether of African or European songs – was evidently phased out after Pulumo started at Morija Training Institution. By this time, says J.M. Mohapeloa,
The music teacher, called E. Pester, was busy teaching music with soft voices, which were used with skill, without being pushed, without being carelessly sharp. Those who were conducting choirs were taught how to direct properly, showing time and how to direct the singers with your hands. They were not teaching only those who wanted to be teachers, although for those music was examinable. All the students who were training to become teachers and other branches, were divided into ‘Class Choirs’, each group had a director who pointed out the important points of music. They would choose a song which the groups would use on a selected competition day. When the students learned this song, they would be shown how to sing properly and not just making a noise. (Mohapeloa and Phakisi 1987, 12-13)
It was in one of these groups that ‘Pulumo developed his knowledge of music’:
Pester had a chosen quartet of singers whose music was the most beautiful because they were trained with care and patience, such that when they sang, it was mysteriously beautiful. They sang the notes accurately, the voices clear, controlled by the owners. Before the end of the year that Pulumo arrived at Morija, Pester had already noticed that he was talented and selected him to become part of the quartet. His knowledge of music became deeper. (Ibid, 13)
This knowledge was not only of singing but of theory of music, a knowledge that constituted ‘the rules’ Mohapeloa ‘has shown us’, as his publisher put it in 1935: a system of keys, key relationships, time signatures, notation, chord progressions and elementary harmony, heavily diluted in the mission school – as in every educational context – and in a mission station in rural Lesotho, utterly de-contextualised. There were no pianos, string quartets, symphony orchestras, little exposure to the kind of urban Western traditions out of which the rules sprang. Mohapeloa may have been made more aware of some of the contexts than his peers were, by his lessons with Florence Mabille (Mohapeloa 1965), but not much.
When Mohapeloa left Thabeng to attend the SANC (now the University of Fort Hare) in 1928 to complete his Matriculation he encountered Xhosa and Zulu composers whose music was stylistically somewhat unlike Sotho music, and to different ‘African’ ways of singing. By the time Mohapeloa came to collect his first 32 songs into one volume, then, he was ready to use a new term for them as ‘songs’, eschewing the usual Sesotho words ‘lipina’ or ‘lifela’ in favour of a new phrase, ‘meloli le lithallere’.
‘Meloli’ and ‘lithallere’
‘Meloli’ – pronounced ‘melody’ ((The Sesotho ‘l’ is pronounced ‘d’ when it comes before the vowels ‘i’ or ‘u’.)) – does not mean ‘melody’ in the Western sense: it is the plural of the Sesotho noun, ‘mololi’, which means ‘narrow, thin thing; whistle; song of a bird’ (Mabille and Dieterlen 1950, 213). In the title of Volume I, it means ‘pleasant musical sounds’ or unadorned natural singing; it could refer to folk song. Throughout Meloli I Mohapeloa evokes sounds: of nature, of weather, birds, of games, tongue-twisters and dances, and of rural life in general, so ‘meloli’ becomes a wonderfully evocative portmanteau word connoting both human and non-human sound.
‘Lithallere’ (pronounced ‘ditalleree’) comes from the verb ‘thallera’, ‘to adorn’, which is associated with speech, and hence comes to mean ‘nice songs’ (Mabille and Dieterlen 1950, 381). Mohapeloa translated this word for David Coplan during an interview with him in 1978 as ‘extemporary harmonization’, the title Meloli le lithallere reflecting the ability of Africans, he explained to Coplan, ‘to sing in unison or harmonize without forethought – automatically’, showing that ‘it’s not difficult to harmonize; it’s second nature’. To sing and to harmonise are one and the same musical gesture, as it were. Perhaps, therefore, one should not attach too much significance to the difference in meaning between ‘meloli’ and ‘lithallere’, but consider their use jointly in this title.
The publishers translated Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika as ‘African Songs and Tunes’, a space-saving solution, perhaps; and very different is the translation made in 1998 by J.S.M. Khumalo, ‘African melodies in decorative counterpoint’ (Khumalo 1998, 28). By using this phrase Khumalo raises the question of how ‘without forethought’ African part-singing – the impromptu addition of parts – was, in the 1930s, as opposed to how carefully and deliberately Mohapeloa composed his songs and wrote them down ‘for future generations’. The idea of spontaneous harmonisation is in many ways a colonial cliché, the West’s view of the ‘Other’ musicking. It denies a degree of self-awareness, or the musical training that Mohapeloa and other African composers underwent, where they painstakingly acquired a foreign, ‘imposed’ knowledge of chord voicing and chord progression in staff notation and a skill in manipulating choral textures. Such skill was hard won, and although one must be careful not to fall into the trap of seeing it as more of a skill or more hard won that learning indigenous music or hymns in the community or at home, informally, we do know that Mohapeloa himself did not quite ever feel he had reached the level of mastery of ‘Western rules’ that he desired, telling David Coplan in an interview in 1976 that ‘my theoretical background was not so good at first, I hope simply because I was trying to imitate what I had heard and seen in print in tonic solfa. I had a very elementary idea of chords, so I exploited that to the best I could’.
The irony, not lost on Mohapeloa, was that the more he mastered Western theory of music the more he wanted to use it, as he says in the same interview, to ‘write in such a way that the compositions were African in that they sounded like what people in the villages sing’. In fact, he felt that his songs fell into two categories: ‘those that are based on the traditional way of singing, and those which are modelled on the school songs that we sang’.
The word ‘lithallere’ crops up in the texts of Volume I more often than ‘meloli’. Song no. 9 is even called ‘Lithallera’ – originally ‘Lithallere’ but Mohapeloa changed the ending to -a in his 1965 manuscript of the work (more details on this ms. below), perhaps to bring out the idea of adornment. ((Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa, Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika (unpublished manuscript, July, 1965), Richard Cock private collection, Johannesburg.)) This song almost parodies the notion of Western song, with its chorus ‘tarara’ (mimicking ‘falala’ or ‘doremi’); indeed the text is all about Western singing in Africa. The Sesotho text is Mohapeloa’s; the phonemic interlinear translation on the left is by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse, and the translation on the right is by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse and Mpho Ndebele.
Lithallera Fine Songs
Tararara …((This seems to mimic the English ‘tra-la-la’.)) Tararara …
Le mona hae, Afrika, re bina ka lithallere, Even here in Africa we sing with fine voices,
Even here home Africa we sing in nice-voices
Ha re hlokofetse, When we are sad,
When we hurt
Re bina ka lithallere, utloa hle, ak’u utloe, We make good melodies, listen carefully,
We sing in nice-voices hear please please listen
Re le timeletse;((Literally, ‘as we elude you’, i.e. you can’t tell we are sad.)) You can’t tell we are sad;
We you disguise-for
E, ke lithallere; Yes, these are the fine songs;
Yes is nice-songs
Re ikaha likou We strengthen our throats
We build larynxes
Ka meloliloli ea khabo. With melodies of adornment.
With sounds of adornment
Le rōna ma Afrika We too, we Africans,
Too we Africans
Rea na te fi sa. We have fun.
Etsoe ntho ena ho bina ((As in some other African languages, the Sesotho word for ‘singing’ or ‘song’ is synonymous with ‘music’.)) After all, music
In fact thing this to sing
Ke ea habo rōna. Is our forte.
Is of house our
‘Lithallere’ seems to embrace not only a habit of spontaneous extemporary singing – related to (learnt) folksong, perhaps but modified by (learnt) Western practices – but also a way of physically ‘adorning’ the voice. Words and phrases such as ‘tarara’, ‘bina ka lithallere’, ‘ikaha likou’ and ‘meloliloli ea khabo’, and the pride with which African song is represented in this song – ‘music is our forte’ (what an understatement) – point to a notion of song and vocal display that uses a cultivated voice.
Drawing a distinction between ‘African’ and ‘Western’ vocality seems an essentialist move in our time, when choirs can sing in many different ways. An American university choir can sing Lithallera, for example, very differently from the way the UK’s BBC Singers or a Bulgarian male-voice choir would, or a choir that has arisen because of the ‘natural voice movement’ (see Bithell 2014). But to Mohapeloa, conscious as he was of developing a new kind of African choral work in the 1930s, it had some currency.
Sources for this edition
Three types of sources were consulted: published scores, manuscripts, and other documents.
Scores in all the published versions listed above are important in a case like Mohapeloa’s, where there are few extant manuscripts. The latest editions of all five books published by MSBD are still in print, on sale at the bookshop in Morija, and most of the earlier editions of those books can be consulted in Morija Museum and Archives (MMA). Binang ka Thabo is still on sale in the Catholic Centre at Mazenod, outside Maseru. Gathering other sources took a little more effort. Meluluetsa did not go beyond a 1st edition and is out of print, but there was a copy in the Library of the University of South Africa, Pretoria. The newspaper Leselinyana is housed in MMA. Two individual songs were in the private collection of David Ambrose in Ladybrand (South Africa); Ambrose has the largest private archive of material on Lesotho in the world. SAMRO has songs from larger collections that were republished individually (usually in Morija), and a few other songs or fragments, including ‘Lesotho, Tsiketsi sa Tlotla ea Afrika’ (SAMRO Catalogue AO2950), ‘Eben-Ezer’ (AO2951), ‘Tloholohelo ea Ntlo ea Molimo’, ‘Morija’ (Morija Solfa Leaflets No. 1), and ‘Thoko ea Tlhōlo’ (Praise of Man’s Victory Over Ignorance), described as an ‘Adapted Extract’ from Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III. These sources are not always dated. SAMRO has itself re-published two songs from MLA in its South Africa Sings series: ‘U Ea Kae?’ (MLA I/1) and ‘Nonyana Se-nya-mafi’ (MLA III/66) (Khumalo 1998, 29-32; and 2008, 61-75). These published songbooks constitute the majority of sources consulted.
A few original manuscript sources have survived in private collections, of Mrs Ntsiuoa Joyce Mohapeloa (Hlotse), Dr Karabo Eric Lekhanya (Maseru), and Dr Richard Cock (Johannesburg). Mrs Mohapeloa has part of the ms. of Meluluetsaand manuscripts of the miscellaneous songs Freedom in Unity: O.A.U. Anthem, Tholoana Lerato, Lesotho Lefa la Rōna,and Shoeshoe tsa Moshoeshoe. Some of these are in large print format: 4 plain A4 sheets glued together and music written with a thick felt-tipped pen. Mrs Mohapeloa’s view (pers. comm. 29.9.06) is that this was due to the composer’s failing eyesight in later life. ((J.S.M. Khumalo suggested that this format enabled music to be pinned up on a wall and read by choirs during rehearsals (Khumalo. 2008. Conversation with author, 2 September). Mohapeloa’s script, both in his music notation and his song texts, is distinguished by its neatness and legibility regardless of paper quality or size. )) Dr Lekhanya’s private collection in Maseru includes a sheaf of Psalm settings by Mohapeloa in manuscript – harmonizations of Afrikaans melodies made for the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, a missionary branch of the main Dutch Reformed Church in the late 1970s – and a few individual late songs. Dr Cock’s private collection in Johannesburg has the original manuscript of Meloli I revised by Mohapeloa in 1965, discussed below. A manuscript score in the SAMRO Archive attributed to Mohapeloa, Thapelo [Prayer] (file A04669), handwritten in staff notation, is neither by Mohapeloa nor in his hand: it is an extract from a work by Haydn transcribed anonymously from the tonic solfa songbook Lipina tsa Likolo tse Phahameng. ((See fn. 7.))
Fifty-seven songs from Meloli were transcribed into staff notation by Jonathan Edwards, a teacher at Waterford School in Mbabane, Swaziland. His handwritten Staff Notation Version of Choral Compositions of Mohapeloa contains the 32 songs of Meloli I and first 25 songs of Meloli II, without translations (Edwards 1979). Copies of this private publication are housed in the International Library of African Music (ILAM), Grahamstown and Morija Museum and Archives. The present Edition does not always agree with Edwards’ interpretation of time signatures, grouping of notes and voice registers, but his volume makes a useful comparison. Transcriptions of individual songs have been made for concerts or eisteddfods from time to time: for example, ‘U Ea Kae?’ (MLA I/1) by Rosalie Conrad in 1987 for the University of Durban-Westville Choir, and ‘Mokhotlong’ (Meluluetsa 17) by Ludumo Magangane and Carl van Wyk in 1997 for the Roodepoort International Eisteddfod.
There is a proliferation of illegal copies in existence, made during decades of practice where copies were hand-written, roneoed, gestetnered or photocopied. Many different versions of individual songs were brought into circulation this way, regardless of whether or not works were published. Such informal diffusion, in a context where oral memory plays a vital role and where copies are frequently made not from original publications but from other copies, saw many variant versions created. To locate all Mohapeloa’s scores reproduced this way would be a major undertaking, not attempted for this edition although it would make a fascinating separate study. Although scores are now more or less standardised for the National Choir Festival, there still tends to be no acknowledgment of their source. Prescribed music, is now available online at http://dogreatthings.co.za/music/files/ 2012/06/L8839-Standard-Music-Book-2016-PRINT.pdf and http://dogreatthings.co.za/ music/files/2012/06/L8839-Large-Music-Book-2016.pdf).
Although composers’ names normally appear on such scores nowadays, it is still unclear which version has used to make the score or who transcribed it, and the score is undated. This tendency towards anonymity reinforces the notion that works are not intellectual property but vehicles for winning prizes, handed down by generations of competition entrants but not historically-grounded documents produced at a particular time by composers – and occasionally publishers – who still own the copyright.
Morija Training Institution choir recorded eight songs from Meloli I at the Gallo studios in Johannesburg in December 1936 or January 1937: Chabana sa Khomo, Ei, Ei, Kolliana, Methaka Emang, ’Mutlanyana, Qeu! Qeu! Majoana, Tsohang, and U Ea Kae? These tracks were copied by Hugh Tracey and are in the International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown. They were reissued on the CD accompanying this Edition (ACE CD001). Three-hundred and seventy-eight recordings of choirs ostensibly singing Mohapeloa are housed in the SABC Sound Archive in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, most of them recorded for Radio Bantu. A few of them are not by Mohapeloa in fact, and some songs by Mohapeloa were designated – in the SABC-speak of the 1960-80s – ‘South Sotho’ or ‘traditional’. All these recorded sources were consulted for this edition and many of them were useful in guiding the insertion of editorial tempi and dynamics, where none existed in the original scores.
Literary sources used to prepare this edition include Mohapeloa’s prefaces to MLA I, Khalima-nosi, and Meluluetsa, which indicate his intention and sometimes his sources of inspiration. Prefaces and forewords written by other people are also interesting: for example Akim Sello’s foreword (‘Mohlatsoa-Sebaea’) to MLA I (Sello 1935), Diparata Gosh’s introduction to Meluluetsa Gosh 1976), and Chief Lebua Jonathan’s foreword to Meluluetsa (Jonathan 1976).
The Huskisson Collection in the SAMRO Archive contains material acquired by Yvonne Huskisson during the 1960s while she was compiling choral programmes for the Radio Bantu service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). In her capacity as Music Organiser for Radio Bantu she corresponded with most of the 318 composers listed in her 1969 book (mentioned earlier), including Mohapeloa. The documents in the file ‘Mohapeloa, J.P.’ in the SAMRO Archive Huskisson Collection include their correspondence, two original photographs, Mohapeloa’s various lists of his works, two short autobiographies (one in Sesotho, one in English), transcripts of regional (Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa etc.) programmes on African music, and Mohapeloa’s translations of some of his songs. Also in this file at some point was a manuscript, almost certainly the original manuscript, of Meloli Book 1, which Mohapeloa sent Huskisson in 1965. The importance of this 1965 Huskisson ms. as a source is discussed below. ((It is now in the private collection of Dr. Richard Cock in Johannesburg, who allows copies to be made. A copy made by Mokale Koapeng c.2009 was the one used in the preparation of this edition, and both Richard Cock and Mokale Koapeng are thanked for access to this rare text.))
Anthropologist David B. Coplan interviewed Mohapeloa when he was beginning his ethnographic research on Basotho music and poetry in the 1970s. Coplan recorded two interviews, one in 1976 on tape which he later transcribed onto cards, and one in 1978 directly in note form. These field cards, which Coplan located in his office at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009, are a rich source for Mohapeloa’s thoughts about his music and how he composed it, especially his struggle to combine African and Western elements to his liking. Another useful source for connections between his songs and his life is a biographical essay by historian J.M. Mohapeloa (the composer’s brother) and the composer L.M. Phakisi, produced in 1987. This substantial privately published monograph of 47 pages in Sesotho called Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong (The Eloquence of Song in Sesotho) has rich historical data not given elsewhere and includes some musical analysis with tonic solfa examples.
The newspaper Leselinyana le Lesotho (The Little Light of Lesotho), housed in MMA, has a number of references to Mohapeloa between the 1920s and 1980s. Many other newspapers, magazines and documents and even one or two individual songs are owned by Professor David Ambrose A typescript by P.M. Mot’soane in Morija Museum and Archives (2004) reproduces some material from Mohapeloa and Phakisi, and one on the Internet by Moroesi Sibandze for the St Louis African Chorus draws heavily on Mot’soane (2004). Interestingly, it also refers to a project aimed at ‘transcribing all, or selections of Dr J.P. Mohapeloa’s compositions into staff notation’ in which student volunteers were invited to team up with Ms Sibandze’s ‘Arts and Cultural Centre in Lesotho’ (Mot’soane 2004). There are many other written sources, pertaining to Lesotho’s history (Gill 1997), some music-analytical (Mngoma 1981), ethnomusicological (Coplan 1994), or musicological (Olwage 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010/11). The lists Mohapeloa made for the SABC were consulted, as well as one drawn up in 1998 by a Mr Nchoncho, evidently part of a proposal to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mohapeloa’s birth (Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa, pers. comm. 29 Sep. 2006). Some of the titles Nchoncho lists are difficult to trace: they may not be Mohapeloa’s titles but slightly altered first lines, or popular names by which songs became known among choirs, for there are many titles on Nchoncho’s list (and also at the SABC) that do not appear in any other source. ((See Catalogue of Works and the ‘Preface’ to Volume VI.))
Reliability of sources and the authority of this edition
The approach used in this edition, as mentioned earlier, comes from the Germanic tradition of historical-critical editions whose ‘method focuses on the creation of a comprehensive apparatus, linked to an accurately presented, historical text’(Hulle 2011). This is a performing edition: the edited vocal texts here are as historically authoritative as possible and performable by contemporary choirs anywhere. The process of editing involved selecting the best tonic solfa copy-text from among competing versions (printed and manuscript) and preparing a new version of the score in staff notation, with minimal interference to the text, explaining in the apparatus (editorial marks, translations, notes, commentaries) why such a version is considered authoritative. Editorial suggestions on the score itself are kept to a minimum, there to clarify an aspect of performance that is not self-evident.
The Huskisson manuscript (1965) mentioned above is the authoritative copy-text for Volume I: Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika I, because it is almost without doubt (in the absence of any other evidence) the original 1935 manuscript used to typeset the 1st edition, with many minor tweaks made by the composer before he sent it to Huskisson in 1965. (Details of what Mohapeloa added or changed in 1965 are given in the critical commentaries on individual scores.) This ms. is thus the last known version of Meloli I that Mohapeloa approved. He made extensive changes to the MSBD 2nd published edition (1953) of Meloli I subsequently reproduced in all MSBD’s later editions, but when came to showing Yvonne Huskisson in 1965 his best work – as any composer wants to do, when asked for samples of their compositions by a major player in the music industry – Mohapeloa returned to his first thoughts as set down in the ms., polished up.
How Huskisson obtained this ms. is explained in their correspondence in the Huskisson Collection in SAMRO’s Archive. She must have first written to him (we do not have her letter) in mid 1965, for his reply on 16 July 1965 was, ‘Just a line to thank you for your kind invitation to contribute something in your intended publication. I am only too glad to co-operate in a work of this type. As proof of this I am returning the form duly signed and promise to fulfil the remaining obligations shortly’. Five days later, on 21 July, he sent her the manuscript score of Meloli I, the Mazenod publication Binang ka Thabo, and a covering page attached to the score that read:
I have pleasure in sending you some of my compositions as requested.
1. The songs in manuscript form have already been published (1935) and the copyright for these is in the hands of the publishers, Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
2. The printed copy consists of songs of which the publishers concerned do not claim any copyright reservations. The copyright still belongs to the individual composers. ((Mohapeloa, J.P., manuscript of Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika [I], [1965, cover page] (Johannesburg: Richard Cock private collection).))
He ‘suggests’ three songs from each book, perhaps for Huskisson to use as examples and it’s interesting that he refers to songs ‘already published in 1935’ as if Meloli I had not already been reprinted by MSBD in 1953 with his revisions and a preface explaining them. Not one song is without change, and in some songs there are dozens of changes to pitch, to rhythm, the duration of notes or rests, also to keys, text, voicing, and as a result occasionally text. Mohapeloa did not cut out or add sections to songs but tinkered, extensively, with the musical grammar. This ‘first reprint’ of Meloli Le Lithallere tsa Afrika I is technically a second edition, then, rather than a reprint. Much of the change does not affect pagination and none of it amounts to radical differences in the structure or length of individual songs, but the extent of minor tinkering is remarkable. The 1953 edition was reprinted in 1977, 83, and 88 almost without change (there are one or two changes in 1977); the last two editions appeared after the composer’s death in 1982; and there have been no reprints of Meloli I since 1988.
Yvonne Huskisson replied to Mohapeloa on 6 August thanking him for his manuscript and assuring him that the SABC would retain the book ‘until we know exactly what we require. Rest assured it will be in safe-keeping until it is back in your hands’. ((Huskisson, Yvonne. 1965. Letter to Mohapeloa, 5 August.))
This must be the original manuscript used to prepare the first edition of Meloli I in 1935, with revisions made by hand: Mohapeloa would not have been able to rewrite 32 songs (almost 100 pages of music) for Huskisson, by hand, in so few days. There are a few very slight differences between the ms. and the 1935 publication, attributable either to careless typesetting or to last-minute changes dictated by the composer directly to the compositor, that therefore do not appear on the ms.: for example, in U Ea Kae? there are ties at one point while the ms. has rests. Generally speaking, Mohapeloa’s scores contain very few typos, but occasionally in the ms. ties are very feint and could be mistaken for rests (bar 21 of U Ea Kae? is a case in point).
No correspondence has survived which proves that the SABC returned the ms. to Mohapeloa, although in the Morija Museum and Archives (close to where he lived) there is a tantalising display card lying among some first editions of Meloli that reads, ‘Tonic Sol-Fa Manuscript with its corresponding Printed Book by the African author J.P. Mohapeloa’ – but there is no manuscript. Perhaps the card was used for an exhibition at some point, which included this ms. Huskisson’s extensive documentation on hundreds of composers remained in the SABC Music Library after Huskisson retired, but during the restructuring of the SABC in the 1990s Huskisson gave her entire collection of scores and documentation on African composers to Dr Richard Cock, then Head of Music at the SABC who later donated it to the Southern African Music Rights Organisation in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, retaining for his private collection only the ms. that Mohapeloa sent Huskisson in 1965. (( “The Huskisson collection was given to me, and I donated it to Samro. The Mohapeloa book I still have, and that is the only item which I retained” (Cock, Richard. 2012. E-mail to author, 23 October). Both Huskisson and Cock refer to the ms. as a ‘book’ because its format is a foolscap hard-covered exercise book, lined for writing. The size, the copperplate handwriting of titles and text, and the tortoise-shell binding would fit with a date from the 1930s.))
The original ms. of the 1953 ‘reprint’ has not been found. It was typeset at Morija Printing Works while Mohapeloa himself was working there. Did he dictate the changes (to the 1935 edition) directly to the compositor, or even adjust the lettering and spacing on the compositor’s plate himself? There seems no doubt that the changes are by Mohapeloa, for in the preface to the 1953 edition, ‘Khoro’ [‘Entrance/gateway’] he speaks about tightening loose ends and making the songs more to people’s liking, saying, towards the end, ‘Ha ho le joalo tlhopho-bocha ena re tla e ōmela’ [In this way we will remix this new publication] (Mohapeloa 1953b, 4). Whether or not he was happy with the ‘remix’ we can only surmise, but perhaps he was not entirely happy, because he did not send Huskisson this 1953 published edition but his much larger and more valuable hand-written manuscript from years earlier. This is the version he wanted her to use in programmes for public radio broadcast and in a prominent publication about African composers. Because it was only ‘rediscovered’ recently – and I am indebted to Mokale Koapeng for this discovery – and was certainly sent to Huskisson in 1965, and but because it contains a few minor changes to the 1935 edition it is referred to in this Critical Edition as the ‘1965 Huskisson manuscript’ or ‘the 1965 ms.’. It has no date, but the accompanying letter is dated 21 July 1965, so when the ms. is referred to it is by the dated 1965 not 1935; and the page nos., which are not Mohapeloa’s but were added later, are shown in square brackets. This manuscript is taken as the authoritative source or copy text for the present edition, with additions from other sources used where appropriate. ((These changes may reflect the influence of his part-time study at Wits, where Mohapeloa learnt to have misgivings about his lack of knowledge of Western harmony and counterpoint. For more on this issue see Lucia 2011a, 56-86; and 2014, 219-230. ))
Regarding the reliability of published sources: most of them were printed in Morija, where Mohapeloa settled in 1945 and lived until his death in 1982. His day job from 1945 to 1978 was proof reader at Morija Printing Works where MSBD books were printed, so he would have been close to the publication process and knew how compositing worked. In comparison with the MSBD publications, therefore there are many more typos in Meluluetsa, printed in Cape Town by OUP. Although Mohapeloa proofed this (the Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa ms. mentioned above shows some of his corrections) many errors remained. He described one of the problems with this product as ‘spacing’, saying in his 1978 interview with Coplan that (for example) song no. 7, ‘E, Molimo Ok’o Boloke Motlotlehi le Sechaba’ (MNBL/7)] was ‘spatially poor. Tonic solfa line has 20 rather than 18 typographical units. Proper duration of notes not well rep[resented]. The MeloliBooks are better’. ((J.P. Mohapeloa interviewed by David B. Coplan (Morija, May 1978), card 2.)) Part of the problem, he felt, was the inadequacy of tonic solfa rhythm to represent African rhythm patterns which came into his mind ‘more by accident than intention’. This song was ‘1st written in very complic[ated]. manner’, he told Coplan, ‘later simplified – it had quarter notes as 1/6 of a bar. The song is better taught without the score, which does not represent the rhythm adequately’. In both the surviving manuscript version of this song and the printed score the meter is two divisions in a bar subdivided into twos, and fours, which is indeed far from ‘quarter notes as 1/6 of a bar’.
The MSBD reprints occasionally have variants that might be improvements or corrections, and these variants are explained in the critical commentary on individual songs. Some reprints had additional prefaces while others did not. Some reprints are identical. The only difference between the 1st edition (1951) and 1st reprint (2002) of Khalima-nosi, for example is that the 1st edition has a photograph in the Frontispiece while the 2nd does not.
Presentation of the edited scores
Editing Mohapeloa began with the process of transcribing songs manually from tonic solfa to staff notation, a process that is a mystery to most people. ((There may be a computer program that does this, but it might not be able to cope with music based on a Sesotho text that can change voicing mid-song and has an idiomatic repeat system, and where variants exist.)) Staff notation scores were set up in the Sibelius music software program reading from a tonic solfa score where the voices are not always designated (e.g. SATB) and where the number of voices sometimes varies during the course of a song, only the context helping to decide what the extra voice part is. ((This descriptive section may read oddly with its mixture of past and present tense as I try to deal with the problem that the music and the scores ‘are’ – they exist continuously in the present – while the editing process ‘was’ (thankfully) recently finished.)) Repeats are frequent but formatting them had to vary according to context. Tonic solfa does not use key signatures: the key of a song is stated at the top of the score, for example ‘Doh=F’. Major keys are the norm, and even where a song is in a minor key or modal it is still usually given a major key (doh).
Determining meter (meaning time signature – and this edition uses the spelling ‘meter’, a viable English alternative to metre) was more difficult, since this is not stated by composers of tonic solfa scores but has to be deduced from the way units or bars are divided and subdivided by short barlines, colons, dashes, full-stops, commas, or spaces (rests). The most common metrical divisions in Mohapeloa’s songs are four main divisions, for which 4/4 meter worked best, although duple or triple divisions are also found (2/4 and 3/4). Mohapeloa sometimes divides the bar into six units (6/8) and occasionally there are divisions suggesting 9/8 or 12/8. A major difficulty in transcribing songs was discerning the difference between Sesotho text, pitch letters d, r, m, etc., and commas and colons that denote rhythm – all occurring close together in a fairly crowded space on a small page.
The devil is in the detail. Tonic solfa is a notation system that uses the seven letters d r m f s l t (doh, ray, me, fah, soh, lah, te) to denote pitch. A choir has a total range of about four octaves, and in solfa different octave registers are shown by means of superscript or subscript strokes or numbers against the solfa letters. (In African choral practice numbers are more common than strokes, but strokes are normal elsewhere in the world and are the Sibelius norm, so they are used in this edition.) This is what a range of four and a half octaves in tonic solfa pitch looks like, using numbers for higher or lower octaves. The normal voice range is underlined:
d2 r2 m2 f2 s2 l2 t2 dl rl ml fl sl ll tl d r m f s l t d1 r1 m1 f1 s1 l1 t1 d2 r2 m2 f2 s2
Using strokes (which here look like commas or inverted commas):
d,, r,, m,, f,, s,, l,, t,, d, r, m, f, s, l, t, d r m f s l t d’ r’ m’ f’ s’ l’ t’ d’ r’ m’ f’ s’
How is ‘normal’ doh determined, given that not all keys lie comfortably within a voice range? In Mohapeloa’s scores, middle C up to B-flat (d-t) are normal pitches for Sop/Alto and an octave below this is normal for Ten/Bass, because in solfa notation the idea is to avoid too many sub- or super-scripts, just as in staff notation one changes clefs to avoid using too many leger lines.
Returning to the editing process: after clefs, key signature, time signature, and notes voice by voice had been inputted, the text was added, reproducing hyphens (or lack thereof) and spellings exactly as Mohapeloa has them, and noting discrepancies in the critical commentary at the end of the song. ((Hyphens were particularly problematic, because many words that in Mohapeloa’s early years many have been hyphenated (Sesotho was first written by French speaking missionaries in the mid nineteenth century when hyphens were common) but under the impact of changes to orthography hyphens often fell out of use. )) Mohapeloa’s solfa scores show slurs or melismas as underlinings. In the staff notation transcription these are shown as slurs between notes. Syllables are usually not prolonged in the text unless they go over a system or page.
The scores in this Critical Edition are open vocal scores, one voice per stave as in the original tonic solfa score, the difference being that the Sesotho words are placed rather more precisely under every voice. Text is often written only between Alto and Tenor in solfa scores, posing problems when voices have different rhythms. In handwritten manuscripts texts are fairly logically spaced but in published scores the spacing is not always ideal and sometimes it was difficult to determine which syllable went with which note.
All scores have a piano reduction to aid rehearsal. This is not an accompaniment, although in the history of choral practice it has to be said that songs may have been conceived ‘a cappella’ by default, for lack of keyboards in African schools or community halls and for lack of African pianists to play them. There are one or two historic recordings of Mohapeloa songs in the SABC Sound Archive where choirs are accompanied, by piano or banjo. ((U Ea Kae? has been arranged for solo voice and jazz ensemble and Molelekeng for choir and orchestra. Copies of these arrangements are in the SAMRO Archive, Johannesburg.)) But the tradition of a cappella choral music in the West that was brought to places such as Lesotho in the nineteenth century undoubtedly also had enormous influence, and choral practice – except for big competitions – is usually an unaccompanied experience. ((The British ‘a cappella’ rather than the American ‘a capella’ is used in this Edition.))
The apparatus on or around the score incudes title, composer, scoring, page numbers, copyright information, historical introduction to the song and translation before the score, and sources, variants, and critical comments after it.
The edition has two staff notation versions of every song, one with tonic solfa notation added above the staves. The argument for presenting a version in dual notation is that many practitioners familiar with this music do not read staff notation. ((In other countries in Africa choirs read staff notation, yet in South Africa the habit persists of composing and singing music in tonic solfa.)) Adding tonic solfa above each voice part in Sibelius 7 is fraught with problems, however: it makes the scores visually cluttered; some tonic solfa buffs might not agree with the way Sibelius 7 handles octave displacement or compound meter; the possibility for many more typographical errors creeps in, because of the hours of extra manual manipulation of solfa characters required on every page. On the other hand, choirs outside southern Africa who have never used tonic solfa might be interested in the dual notation versions and may even learn how to read solfa notation with sufficient skill to be able to sing works that have not yet been transcribed, and hence broaden their repertoire of African music.
Although an editing template was worked out for formatting scores, in practice this was often adapted to allow for notes that lie high or low on a staff, sudden divisi, or extra verses of text. Where possible there are two systems per page, which is easier for choirs to read even if it necessitates a slight reduction in note or staff size. Where there are six or more voices or multiple verses of text, one system per page is generally used.
Regarding repeats: Mohapeloa often wrote songs in two sections, the second of which is repeated; sometimes he repeats the first section at the end of the song, or has more than one repeat in a song. He uses Dal Segno or D.S. for most of these repeats as is the practice in tonic solfa notation, and occasionally Da Capo or D.C. In this edition, repeat bars or D.C.s are used except where complex repeats make D.S. necessary. This sometimes means that 1st- and 2nd-time bars are generated in order to clarify how repeats are managed. If a song begins on an upbeat, Mohapeloa notates the first bar in full in his early songs, even if it begins on the 4th beat. Later on, he begins directly on an upbeat, and because this is the norm in staff notation (unless the rhythm is particularly complex) this is how upbeats are generally notated here. The transcribed song may thus begin and end slightly differently from the tonic solfa score, and bar numbers may thus sometimes differ from those in the original score.
Repeats, like accompaniments, can be approached with an open mind. What Mohapeloa wrote is presented in this edition, but what was sung was often different in practice: as historic recordings show us, choirs sometimes repeated sections where no repeat was indicated, or even whole songs. This might have happened to satisfy the needs of the studio recording or the mood of a live concert situation, or just the love of singing.
Presentation of the song texts
The texts are presented in two forms: as in the original Sesotho, on the score and as separate poems with translations after them on the inside front pages, these poems having in most cases been extracted from the solfa scores. In Mohapeloa’s scores, the Sesotho language matches the music word-by-word or syllable-by-syllable, but when words or phrases are repeated (or left out, or incomplete) because of the polyphonic nature of his writing, or where different voice parts sing different texts simultaneously, it took some juggling to represent the extracted text as a coherent poem. Repetitions are deemed essentially musical rather than poetic, unless the context – the meaning and thrust of a song – clearly dictates otherwise. When the Sesotho texts were extracted from the tonic solfa scores, then, decisions were constantly negotiated by the initial translator, Dr Motinyane-Smouse, and I, and later by Mrs Mpho Ndebele and I, about the order in which lines should appear in and how often (or if) repeated words or lines should be shown.
Writing out the texts as poems was essential so that they could be translated, and because there are almost no extant texts written as separate poems by Mohapeloa himself. In this way, this Critical Edition makes available for the first time to literary scholars a wealth of poetry in Sesotho-English that shows Mohapeloa to have been a commanding literary as well as musical figure.
In terms of the way he composed words and music: in his early songs, he told David Coplan, he found it ‘easiest to write music, with a theme or subject in mind, then it becomes easier to fit words to it. Idea to melody to words’. ((Mohapeloa interviewed by Coplan, 1978, card 6. NB the abbreviations are in Coplan’s field notes.)) Coplan continues:
Mohapeloa finds the words a handicap if they are there first. Once the music is there the words just come. The tune sugg. [suggests] the words. Like in his first song … the music sugg. a folktale about a rabbit & so the words just came. The words then necessitate changes in the melody, to avoid semantic distortion. So the words can damage the melody. To get a word that just fits the tune is a strug. [struggle] & may have to be an ‘expensive’ one. This diff. [difficulty] actually helps to improve the qual. [quality] of the lyrics – the words tend to be commonplace if they come too easily. ((Mohapeloa interviewed by Coplan 1978, card 7.))
Where Mohapeloa did make copies of some Sesotho texts in 1965 for Yvonne Huskisson, these have usually been used for comparison only, because they tend to be summaries that do not ‘fit’ the music. Texts in the scores are what choirs sing, so texts extracted from the scores are what are presented and translated, by and large. Extracting words from the scores was made easier by Mohapeloa’s regular use of capital letters denoting new lines, so he obviously thought of his texts as poems.
Mohapeloa’s few English translations in the Huskisson Collection are used. Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse did all the remaining initial translations, phoneme-by-phoneme, including lines Mohapeloa left out of his own translations – an enormous labour. She then made a fairly literal interpretation of the meaning of each song to create the poems, and these were first edited by South African poet Stephen Gray and later by Mpho Ndebele, who was able to transform some of the lines through her knowledge of the songs – which she grew up with – and of the deeper meaning of many Sesotho words. Mohapeloa is known for his rich use of metaphor, Sesotho being a highly metaphorical language and also a tonal one where meaning sometimes depends on tone, and in the early songs he also uses many elisions and contractions of words so that they conformed to his musical vision. In Meluluetsa the Sotho poems were published separately from the songs in the 1976 edition although this proved to be a hindrance rather than a help because of the number of contradictions between in-score texts and the separate poems.
Translations are not there to be ‘sung to’ the notes, but to help non-Sesotho speakers understand what they are singing about. Pronunciation of the Sesotho language is not all that difficult but it is not always self-evident, hence the Pronunciation Guide to the Sesotho Texts included in this Edition, that uses international phonetic symbols and English equivalent sounds. ((This can also be downloaded free on www.african-composers-edition.co.za.))
There is no standard way of notating scores composed in tonic solfa notation, which has been used as a compositional medium in southern Africa since the 1870s. As with editing any other music there are sometimes problems reconciling notation and practice, or what Richard Taruskin (1995) has called ‘text and act’. In the practice of African choral music, ‘act’ looms large: scores are not prescriptions so much as records of what composers such as Mohapeloa have tried out with their choirs already. Once committed to paper, choirs learn a composer’s music by rote and a song is quickly memorised. The entire tradition of choral singing out of which compositions emerge is seen by conductors, choralists, competition organisers, broadcasters, adjudicators and anyone else involved as a singing, rather than a composing, tradition. Between the two acts of vocalisation – imaging the music before committing it to paper and then singing it – the score as ‘text’ plays a fleeting role. Even after so many years of national choral competitions, there is no centralised, systematically catalogued library of scores; composers lend their scores and they disappear (as famously happened to Sontonga’s Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika); scores are copied wantonly as if there was no copyright: all this indicates the low value of African choral music as ‘text’. Notwithstanding, Mohapeloa saw his scores as reliable and authoritative documents, as explained earlier (and below).
There is no standard rationale for producing a critical edition because so much depends on the repertoire, and in this case there was no direct precedent. The rationale for this one took into account some aspects of critical editions elsewhere and clarified as work progressed, drawing on imperatives the repertoire itself offered and limitations imposed on production. Funding did not allow for an interactive edition with which scholars and choralists could engage and to which they could contribute, which would have been ideal in a situation where widespread public opinion on this music has not been heard before and where there are so many enthusiastic and knowledgeable practitioners. Even though it is a more or less ‘static’ online edition, however, this still allows for regular updating, for adding or editing information, and for incorporating comments made through the ACE website’s contact form.
This edition uses Chicago Manual of Style (adapted) for text and Sibelius 7 for scores, with standard sizes for margins, staves, and notes unless a score looked crowded: stems on middle lines down; no syllable prolongation in texts unless syllables go over a system or page (as per much contemporary vocal score practice); brackets for triplets; lyrics below the staff at default distance; tonic solfa above the staff; tempi placed above the time signature; dynamics placed above the relevant notes, and so on. Adjustments were made to the text on the score as typesetting proceeded, and scores went through many transformations before the present format was fixed.
Editorial additions on the score are in square brackets [ ]. All original dynamics and expression found in printed or ms. versions of Mohapeloa’s songs are reproduced and where Mohapeloa placed only one dynamic mark on top of a system, they are given for all voices and positioned more logically in some cases. Occasionally an editorial dynamic is added after a cresc. or dim., or an ‘a tempo’ after a ‘rit.’, for clarity. Where there are no dynamics an overall one is suggested at the beginning of a score. Mohapeloa rarely used metronome marks but he often gave tempo indications and a metronome mark is usually only added where he did not. Recorded and live performance practices often informed these interpretative interventions – tempo and dynamics – although it has to be said that historic performances themselves also differ widely. ((There is much evidence for this on the 378 SABC recordings, 22 of which are reproduced on African Choral Legacy: Historic Recordings of J.P. Mohapeloa (ACE CD001).)) Expression marks such as ‘rit.’ and ‘cresc.’ are often found in Mohapeloa’s scores, his ‘hairpins’ as well as his ‘cresc.’ and ‘dim.’ are always retained, including where he spreads ‘cres … cen … do’ over more than one bar. Words or phrases that seem odd to us, such as ‘con fuogo’, are explained in the commentary.
This last comment requires a slight digression: Mohapeloa worked for most of his life in a small village in Africa, had no real peers except Moerane who lived in Lesotho only intermittently (and was not really a friend); there was no music library nearby, and he had few books. This maybe explains ‘con fuogo’ but there is something more below the surface here, about his scores and African modernity, that needs teasing out. Mohapeloa worked within a hybrid Afro-Western cultural environment in which all influences, all source material, all exposure to new material, was devoid of a powerful, metropolitan, overarching Western historical hegemony. This arguably gave him some freedom to interpret influences and information as he saw fit (although he may not have seen it that way). Any scores or books – and they were few and far between – that came his way were grist to Mohapeloa’s contemporary mill, as it were, not to any imagined historically burdened mill from elsewhere. In 2006 the surviving library in Mohapeloa’s former house in Morija contained The World of Music by Sandved (1957), Ewen’s The Complete Book of 20th-century Music (1959), and Novello vocal scores of Lucrezia Borgia and Robert le Diable.
However these books and scores entered his house, what they entered into was a world of African modernistic simultaneity that Mohapeloa shared with many of his generation. Black artistic expression might equally subsist in the modernization of the ‘traditional’ folksong, the arranged negro spiritual, the constantly developing hymnbook, barbershop harmony, ragtime, and all other available samples of ‘contemporary’ music, especially vocal; any or all of these kinds of musics were performed by African practitioners, and any or all of them were absorbed by African composers into their style. Any or all of them contributed to Afro-modernity in choral music. The avoidance of what in the West is seen as musical modernity, ‘art music of the early twentieth century (Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók) [and] serial or post-serial techniques’ (Lucia 2008, 11), was inadvertent: composers in southern Africa in the mid twentieth century, black and often white, too, were generally speaking not exposed to this aspect of modernity. Modernity was represented, for people in the African choral world, by the popular song, choreographed traditional music, jazz, the romantic opera or musical theatre chorus, and baroque or classical oratorio choruses: being ‘modern’ for Mohapeloa included knowing extracts from Messiah, The Creation, The Mount of Olives, a Mozart mass, or a Donizetti opera.
Returning to the question of dynamics and expression: where Mohapeloa used them in one version of a score but not another they are included, their absence from one regarded as less authentic than their presence in another. They are too important to ignore, for Mohapeloa did not make free with dynamics as some composers do, and in the absence of phrasing (which his tonic solfa scores do not have) they are often indicators of musical shape.
The basic principle underling the editing rationale is that of transcribing in as unaltered a way as possible any words or text on the score, retaining ‘given forms of punctuation, contraction, abbreviation, compound words, hyphenation and capitalization, however widely these may vary from modern practice’, as Richard Fotheringham’s puts it in his ‘Editing rationale’ for a collection of English plays written for the Australian colonial stage in the nineteenth century (Fotheringham 2006, lxxxi). Given forms of Sesotho orthography are retained because the rationale is not to modernise music or lyrics but to make both more accessible.
Original spellings with historical warrant and eccentric spellings that are not misleading are allowed to stand, as well as other inconsistent presentations. There is always the possibility in playscripts [or in this case, music scores] that such forms are meant to encode aspects of spoken [sung] language; that is, they are intended, however imperfectly, as guides to the phrasing, emphasis or rhythm of [songs]. (Ibid, lxxxii)
Mohapeloa’s inconsistencies are not corrected, in short, because they may have a ‘momentary’ significance that we can still interpretively reflect on.
He was sometimes inconsistent or silent about stating what voices a song was written for. In tonic solfa scores this information normally appears at the beginning of a song along with the key. Chabana sa Khomo for example says at the top ‘Key Ab S.T.B.S.T.B.’ U ea kae? has nothing. Perhaps the rule of thumb was SATB unless otherwise stated; but Mohapeloa did not use that rule consistently, and TTBB was also perhaps considered the ‘norm’ in the 1930s and 40s.
* * * * *
The exploratory freedom of movement associated with whiteness is expressed in the licence to control the means of knowledge production … while strictly upholding the self-imposed limits and binaries on which its licence depends. If whiteness asserts a right to knowledge of blackness, its freedom to know also asserts a right to its own privacy, a freedom not to be known, a denial of equal knowledge of whiteness.
(Coetzee 2015, 51-52)
It seems important to step away from the third-person, hands-off narrative that this General Introduction has been so far, and ‘to be known’, to introduce a personal note. Why me? Why Mohapeloa? In the post-rainbow, post-African-renaissance, decolonising South Africa of late 2016, my monumental effort can be viewed as monumental hubris. I had to balance many things and overcome many qualms in preparing an edition of music that is so well known to African choirs and yet still so marginal in the academy or in white choralism in South Africa, never mind choralism world-wide.
There is a reason for its marginality, aside from its inaccessibility in African language tonic solfa books. Most music departments around the world are imprisoned in disciplinary myopia. Mohapeloa’s music would be seen in them, as it has been by most of my colleagues in South Africa, as either not Western or competent enough or, conversely, as not African or ‘Other’ enough. (See Lucia 2011a and 2014.) It does not fit the norms of most classical music, world music, jazz or popular music curricula or listening patterns. Added to this, is the erasing effect of its in-house circulation and the lack of commercial recordings. Mohapeloa also threatens to slip between the cracks of ethno/musicological discourse.
It was the combined effect of all these slippages that gave me a reason for retrieving the music from a theatre of multiple disappearing acts. ‘You can no longer write this music out of the script’ is the subtext of this edition; and linked to this: ‘Never again judge this kind of African cultural product as a charming one-off’. A complete edition, with the study of manuscripts and variants and all the other paraphernalia normally reserved for Western music, makes dismissal at least theoretically impossible. I wanted this humble, missionary educated, musical and literary giant of tiny Lesotho to be seen as the major composer he is, and African choral music to be as the analysable, historically embedded repertoire it is. I wanted to present it as an overwhelming body of evidence in and for itself, for what it is, within the larger framework of southern African music, in order to counter the tendency to assess it for what it is not.
The other constituency I address here is the practitioners, who perhaps too glibly claim this as ‘our’ music, arranging it and winning large cash prizes for singing it. This is a composer who has been popular with African choristers for more than seventy years but is undervalued as the producer of a comprehensive, historically informed body of work. But I have to remember that this music is not mine. It is a hybrid repertoire inspired by traditional Basotho music of which I have only secondhand knowledge, jazz, Western classical music and hymns, many of them Sesotho, and unknown to me. I have sourced some of the influences, but I don’t speak Sesotho and have never sung in an African choir although I have heard choirs often, occasionally accompanied and adjudicated them, and since the 1990s have used African choral music as examples in teaching music theory. ((Gathered together in a music theory book (Lucia 2011b).)) I would not have focussed on Mohapeloa if U Ea Kae? had not been sung by the University of Durban-Westville choir when I was working there back in 1989, and I have to keep in mind that I am a white, Western trained, retired professor of music living a privileged middle-class life, able to see Mohapeloa’s work as a body of work rather than as just U Ea Kae?, but unable to ask him whether or not I’m on the right track because I am of the next generation. None of these difference of race, class, culture, language, and generation, can be erased.
I nevertheless offer this Critical Edition to choirs and scholars alike as a new repertoire and a new publication. To Mohapeloa, publishing was as essential a means of ensuring the continuity of African music as performance was, perhaps because during his lifetime he had seen so many oral traditions dying out. As he wrote in the preface to Meloli I in 1953, and as already quoted above, he saw scores as ‘nyeoe’ [cases] presented to a ‘lekhotla’ [traditional court] in order to ensure that African Music of this kind is used ‘mehlala eo ba ka e salang morao kapa ba e hlakothisa phuputsong ea seo ’mino oa Afrika e ka bang o nepahetse ha o ka ba sona’ [as an example to be followed or a place to start when investigating what proper African music should be] (Mohapeloa 1953b, 3). That purpose, of keep a continuity between past and present, is the same for this Critical Edition, with one further aim: to present a historically informed body of documents for use by singers and scholars worldwide that gives an overarching sense of what one composer achieved for music in southern Africa. ((For references to works cited here and throughout this edition, see J.P. Mohapeloa Critical Edition: List of Sources on the following pages.))
List of Sources (download as PDF)
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— 2001. Tentative British Imperialism in Lesotho 1883-1910. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Museums and Archives.
Mohapeloa, J.M. and M.K. Phakisi. 1987. Likheleke tsa Pina Sesothong [The Eloquence of Song in Sesotho]. Maseru:Lekhotla la Sesotho L/P 1139. Translated for the author into English by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse. [Front cover says ‘J.P. Mohapeloa’ which is surely a misprint for J.M.]
Mohapeloa, Joshua Pulumo. 1935a. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations]. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1935b. ‘Re E-s’o Qale!’ [Before We Start]. In Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika I, . Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. Translated into English for the author by Mpho Ndebele.
— 1937. ‘A Song for the Coronation of King George VI’. Basutoland Teachers’ Magazine, 6-8, November 1937.
— 1939. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika II: Buka ea Bobeli [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations: Book 2]. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1945. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika II: Buka ea Bobeli [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations Book 2], 2nd ed. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1947. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III: Buka ea Boraro [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations: Book 3]. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st ed. 1947; 2nd printing 1966; 3rd reprint 1977; 4th reprint 1983; 5th reprint 1988.
— 1951a. Khalima-nosi tsa ’Mino oa Kajeno: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1st ed.
— 1951b. ‘Preface’ to Khalima-nosi tsa ’Mino oa Kajeno: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1953a. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations], 2nd ed. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1953b. ‘Khoro’ [Preface]. In Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika ka J.P. Mohapeloa, 2nd ed., 3-4. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. Translated for the author into English by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse.
— 1955. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika II: Buka ea Bobeli [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations Book 2], 3rd ed. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1965. ‘Bophelo ba ka ke le Sehoba sa Sejoale-Joale: My Life as a Modern African Composer’. Unpublished manuscript, July 1965. Translated for the author into English by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse.
— 1966. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III: Buka ea Boraro [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations: Book 3], 2nd printing. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
— 1976a. Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho [Anthems for the Development of the Lesotho Nation]. Foreword by Dibarata Ghosh. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
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— 1976c. ‘Selelekela’ [Preface]. In Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho [Anthems for the Development of the Lesotho Nation], 13-14. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. Translated for the author into English by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse.
— 1977. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III: Buka ea Boraro [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations: Book 3], 3rd reprint. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
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Mohapeloa, Joshua Pulumo and Yvonne Huskisson. Korrespondensie [Correspondence]. Huskisson Collection. Southern African Music Rights Organisation Archive, Johannesburg.
Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1966. ‘Souvenir Programme: Lesotho Independence’. Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 4 October 1966.
— Lifela tsa Sione. 2011. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot.
Morija Sesuto Printing Works. 1988(1907). Lipina tsa Likolo tse Phahameng [Songs for High School]. Morija: Morija Sesuto Printing Works.
Mot’soane, P.M. 2004. ‘A Brief History and Background to J.P. Mohapeloa’s Music Composition: An Interview with Prof J.M. Mohapeloa, a Brother of the above Music Composer. Conducted by P.M. Mot’soane: 10th November 2004’. Unpublished typescript. Morija: Morija Museums and Archives.
Mthethwa, Bongani. 1988. ‘The Songs of Alfred A. Kumalo: A Study in Nguni and Western Musical Syncretism’.In Papers Presented at the Sixth Symposium on Ethnomusicology, 1987, edited by A. Tracey, 28-32. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music.
Mugovhani, George. 1998. ‘The Manifestation of the “African Style” in the Works of Mzilikazi Khumalo’. MMus Dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand.
Ndlovu, Cesar J.M. 1997. ‘Red-carpet Treatment of Western Classical Music in Black South African MusicCompetitions’. In Papers Presented at the Fourteenth Symposium on Ethnomusicology, edited by A. Tracey, 100-103. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music.
Nhlapo, P.J. and Khumalo, S. 1993. The Voice of African Song. Johannesburg: Skotaville
Olwage, Grant. 2003. ‘Music and (Post)Colonialism: The Dialectics of Choral Culture on a South African Frontier’. PhD Dissertation, Rhodes University.
— ‘John Knox Bokwe, Colonial Composer: Tales About Race and Music’. 2006. Journal of the Royal Musical Association 131(1), 1-37.
— ‘Apartheid’s Musical Signs’. 2008. In Composing Apartheid: Music For and Against
Apartheid, edited by Grant Olwage, 35-54. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
— ‘John Knox Bokwe: Father of Black South African Choral Composition’. 2010/2011. NewMusicSA Bulletin Issues 9/10, 18-19.
Pewa, Elliot. 1995. ‘Zulu Music Competitions: the Continuity of Zulu Traditional Aesthetics’. MA Dissertation, University of Natal.
Sello, Akim L. 1988(1935). ‘Mohlatsoa-Sebaea’ [Foreword]. In Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika ka J.P. Mohapeloa, 5. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. Translated for the author into English by Mantoa Motinyane Smouse.
Sibanda, Bhekimpilo. 2010. Review of Begging to Be Black, by Antjie Krog. Critical Arts 26(4), 628-30.
South African Broadcasting Corporation. n.d. Ho Lla Noto [The Sound of a Note]: Composer J.P. Mohapeloa. Documentary made for TV3 series Mmino, broadcast 24.12.1989. Translated for the author into English by Pule Mile.
Taruskin, Richard. 1995. Text & Act: Essays on Music and Performance. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Uzoigwe, Joshua. 1992. Akin Euba: An Introduction to the Life and Music of a Nigerian Composer. Bayreuth: Eckhard Breitinger.
van Rhyn, Chris. 2013. ‘Mapping Western Art Song Composition in Africa Since 1990’. PhD Dissertation, Stellenbosch University.
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.
Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa by David B. Coplan, Morija, 1976.
Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa by David B. Coplan, Morija, May 1978.
Mrs Ntsiuoa Joyce Mohapeloa by Christine Lucia, Johannesburg, 28 September 2006. Mr
Gilbert Ramatlapeng by Christine Lucia, Maseru, 4 April 2014.
Mr Thabo Tseko Ei Pitso by Christine Lucia, Maseru, 5 April 2014.
Moerane’s Music and This Edition
Moerane’s choral music constitutes the bulk of his output. It belongs to a genre whose beginnings have been ascribed to John Knox Bokwe in 1875 (Olwage 2010/2011), building into a choral tradition that now boasts hundreds of composers (Huskisson 1969; Lucia 2008, 11-12). Like his contemporaries, Moerane was inspired by many different kinds of music including traditional, religious and classical (vocal and instrumental), although he was less interested in jazz than some of his contemporaries. Moerane’s orchestral work is ‘based on thematic material derived from genuine African songs’ (Moerane 1941, ), and I suspect that there is also more indebtedness to African songs in his choral works than has been acknowledged so far. There is a quotation of ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ at the end of Morena Tlake, for example, and ‘Ntisikana’s Hymn’ at the beginning of Ngokuba Sizalelwe Umtwana.
Adventurous harmonies, sudden contrasting textures, lively contrapuntal writing and literary texts are just some of Moerane’s distinctive musical features. To illustrate them I begin with an extract from ‘Mitsa-Mahosi (A Call To Kings). The text is by Bennett Khaketla, ‘arguably the most significant writer from Lesotho after Thomas Mofolo’ (Dunton 2020), who wrote scathing critiques of both British colonialism and Leabua Jonathan’s post-independence coup (Khaketla 1970). ‘Mitsa-Mahosi is a love poem, probably known to Moerane from Khaketla’s collection, Lipshamathe. Bars 31-33 are shown in Figure 1 and bars 34-37 in Figure 2. Mokale Koapeng transcribed the score and Mpho Ndebele translated the text, which means, ‘Hey young man! This poor guy has been struck by love!’
Figure 1: Bars 31-33 of ‘Mitsa-Mahosi by M.M. Moerane, used with permission.
Figure 2: Bars 34-37 of ‘Mitsa-Mahosi by M.M. Moerane, used with permission.
The word ‘[Pno.]’ denotes the piano reduction, for rehearsal purposes only here: it was not part of Moerane’s original score. This does not imply that choirs in Moerane’s day never used accompaniment, which probably depended on the availability of an instrument. On the foot of the typescript of Nonyana tse Ntle (Beautiful Birds), for instance, Moerane writes:
(Moerane [n.d.]; the ‘1/6’ helps to roughly date the work: it must have been written before the South African currency change in 1961)
Moerane’s dramatisation in ‘Mitsa-Mahosi of the poor guy struck down by love - sudden change of key from F major to B-flat major, pitch jumping up an octave, dynamics jumping from piano to forte, new rhythmic figure introduced in bar 33, a catchy tune in bars 33-35 - these aspects exemplify his essentially mimetic way of setting words to music. African choral music is a genre in which the text is paramount - it often contains or strongly implies a message or a moral lesson - and musical realisation of its meaning is paramount. In this example, Moerane writes for the choir syllabically, as if they were one voice, declaiming the onset of love.
Compare it to the next extract, from the song, Alina for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB), shown in Figure 2 in piano reduction only. Here the build-up of sequential phrasing is almost instrumental in conception - where do the singers breath in these long lines? It is indebted to a late 19th-century European style of harmony with which Moerane was clearly familiar. Confirmation that Moerane knew a great deal of western instrumental and vocal music comes from several sources but one in particular is worth mentioning. In an article on Moerane published in the Mail and Guardian in December 1988, the journalist Carmel Rickard quotes from an interview that she had with Moerane’s son, Thabo, where he told her that ‘his father was influenced in form by Mozart and in the harmonies of the symphonic poem by Wagner’ (Rickard 1988). If Moerane knew Wagner’s music then he probably knew Bruckner’s, and Bruckner’s penchant for sequences seem to be echoed in Alina, an extract from which is shown in Figure 3. The setting of this song is rural Lesotho, the family are searching for a teenage girl who has been out all day, evening is drawing in and they are getting worried. The music’s anxious meandering mirrors the words, which at this point are (in Mpho Ndebele’s English translation), ‘Down by the streams, at the rapids, across the valleys. For so long, Oh! For long, for long, O! Alina, sister, Alina! Where on earth were you, Alina? Alina, come on, sis! We know things can be tough …’ (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Bars 9-23 of Alina by M.M. Moerane (ACE piano reduction), used with permission.
Alina also illustratesMoerane’s fondness for chromatic notes, another feature for which he is well known, not to say notorious among choirs used to the diatonicism implicit in tonic solfa notation. Chromatic notes were part of what was taught in black mission schools, but only at an elementary level in most cases (Olwage 2003 chapter 1), for Moerane writes a note at the foot of the score of Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen, ‘N.B. The “de” may be sung as a “d” by inexperienced choirs’ (Moerane [n.d.1938], ). This is one of only two chromatic notes in the piece, the other being the sharpened fah - ‘fe’. Sometimes written ‘ba’ in old tonic solfa scores, this note was clearly more common in 1938 than a sharpened doh, and needed no comment.
Chromatic harmony occurs throughout Moerane’s longest and most ambitious work, Fatše la Heso (My Country), a symphonic poem for full orchestra of strings, brass, woodwinds, harp, piano and percussion, written in 1941. It represents everything that he learnt in a B.Mus. course during the 1930s and particularly during 1941 when he studied with Rhodes Professor of Music Friedrich Hartmann. Hartmann was an Austrian composer and theorist with a keen interest in late tonal chromaticism (van der Linde 1972; Brukman 2007), and there is little doubt that he encouraged Moerane to make daring chromatic moves in this work. Before he met Hartmann, however, Moerane had covered ‘Dominant and Chromatic 7th and Augmented 6th’ chords in the first year of his B.Mus. degree (1930); ‘Advanced Harmony, using Open Score, for String Quartet or Voices and with contrapuntal treatment of the harmonisation of Melodies’ in second year (1931); and ‘Advanced Harmony’, ‘Form and Analysis’, ‘Orchestration and Instrumentation’ and ‘Double Counterpoint and Fugue’ in the third-year course (1933; Rhodes University Calendar 1930, 144; 1931, 148; 1933, 93; Universiteit van Suid-Africa/University of South Africa 1962).
It would be fascinating to know how Moerane deployed these advanced compositional techniques in ‘Album for the Young’, a set of piano pieces that he entered for the ‘May Esther Bedford Prize for Musical Composition’ at Fort Hare in 1936 (Leselinyana 1937, 3). Obviously named after the Schumann work, whose score Moerane possessed (Mofelehetsi Moerane Interviewed by Christine Lucia 14 May 2014), it may have been educational in the same way; but we shall never know, because it was never published and the manuscript is (sadly) lost. Moerane won the prize (£20) against 11 competitors, and was praised by the adjudicator, Mr. S.J. Newns, for the way in which he had ‘written out, plainly and fairly accurately [in staff notation] what he had in mind, with some idea as to form and musical expression’ (Leselinyana Ibid).
In Mahakoe (Jewels) (Moerane [n.d.]), shown in Figures 4 and 5, Moerane’s chromatic experiments and chord clusters reveal him at his most experimental. He seemed to have a string quartet in mind while writing this extraordinary work for SATB.
Figure 4: Mahakoe (Jewels) by M.M. Moerane in piano reduction, bars 1-21, used with permission.
Figure 5: Mahakoe by M.M. Moerane in piano reduction, bars 22-49, used with permission.
Almost as remarkable as the music is the poem that Moerane wrote for this song. It is shown below in the format in which his song texts are given for choral works in this new edition: the Sesotho lines on the left, extracted from the score and translated literally, the poetic translation on the right (by Mpho Ndebele in this case).
|Hoja ke na le gauda,|
If I had also gold,
|If only I had gold|
|Mahakoe a benyang, mahakoe,|
Jewels that shining, jewels,
|And other precious metals,|
|gauda tsa bohlokoa, tse rorisehang!|
golds of precious, that are-praiseworthy!
|Empa joale ke mohloki|
But now I am-indigent
|But I am destitute,|
|Kea sitoa, Kea hloka,|
I-am unable, I-am impoverished,
|I am poor, I have no possessions,|
|Ke tsietsoe, |
|I am in straightened circumstances,|
|I am embarrassed,|
|Ke mohloki ea hlokang,|
I a-destitute who is-needy,
|A destitute among destitutes,|
|Mofumanehi ea sitoang, |
Indigent who lacks,
|A poor indigent.|
|‘Me ke tla ala maotong a hao |
And I will spread at-feet of yours
|And so I will lay at your feet|
|litoro le maloro a moea le pelo|
dreams and bad-dreams of spirit and heart
|all the dreams and nightmares of my soul.|
Moerane taught English literature, among other things, and he must have known the poem by W.B. Yeats to which his own poem is clearly indebted, although his is far darker in tone: ‘Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, / Enwrought with golden and silver light, / The blue and the dim and the dark cloths / Of night and light and the half light; / I would spread the cloths under your feet: / But I, being poor, have only my dreams; / I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’ (Yeats 1994, 59).
When one translates music from one notation to another for publication, looking at it as closely as this, you get to know every single one of the smallest gestures and foibles the composer committed to paper; and inevitably, you wonder what he was like, as a personality. During interviews with family members, former students and colleagues, I assembled some information, but it only made me realise how much more there was to know. What I did learn, however, made me realise that I am privileged to know aspects of him that are unknown to most people, and so I have written a short biography that is available separately.
Many personal documents that must have existed during Moerane’s lifetime, that would have supplemented my interviews, have not survived: a diary, memoir, notes, sketches for pieces, etc. There are only a few surviving professional letters (no personal ones) to people who corresponded with him about his music. I wondered, as I studied his music and especially compositions such as Mahakoe, how Moerane’s contemporaries in the choral sector would have viewed his music - not simply him as a musician, but his music. Who would he have discussed it with? It is so much more experimental than most music performed in the African choral sector. The person most qualified, I am told, was his son, Thabo, whom, to my great regret I never met, for he died in 2006. I am sure that Thabo would have known whether or not his father discussed his music with other composers; and above all, why he published so little. To the extent that a few Moerane prescribed works for competitions were widely reproduced in foolscap and later A4 books (and now online), this was also a form of ‘publication’; but why did Moerane circulate so few of his works? For the fact that choirs know so little of the 50 choral works published here, implies that he did not.
Moerane had the opportunity, as a teacher, to try new works out at school; and he had the opportunity as an adjudicator and leading figure in the choral community to disseminate them. I can only conclude, in the absence of more information, that the fact that so many of the choral works in this edition are appearing for the first time was that he had some reason for not making them ‘public’. Whether this was due to perfectionism on his part (a quality mentioned by several interviewees) or to his realisation that choirs with limited music education would have found works such as Mahakoe too difficult, I would very much like to know.
This point leads me to another, more general one, about the disappearance of the documented choral legacy, and I hope that this new edition may inspire other editions that in turn will prevent further loss. Perhaps it will also serve to counter the misinformation about Moerane that developed during his lifetime and especially after his death, a topic that I have written about elsewhere (Lucia 2020b). My last example in this section of the introduction is Barali Ba Jerusalema (Daughters of Jerusalema), which illustrates how we can know, through more research, how his music was viewed by his contemporaries, and it also reveals how misinformation about his music has arisen.
Like so many of Moerane’s other choral typescripts, the typescript of Barali Ba Jerusalema is undated. Moerane’s former school Principal at Peka High School in Lesotho, Tseliso Makhakhe, recalled, however, during an interview in 2014, that Barali was prescribed for a Lesotho school choir competition in 1968 or ’69. The work made a deep impression on Mr. Makhakhe, and his recollection suggests that that the piece was in fact written especially for this competition. In the following extract from my 2014 interview, Mr. Makhakhe first recalls Moerane buying a car while he was teaching at Peka High School in rural Lesotho, then he remembers the song Matlala and recounts the social significance of conducting another piece, Ruri, before coming to Barali Ba Jerusalema:
He was one of the teachers who bought the first car. It was a tiny, tiny little car! I don’t know what it was. It was so small. I had never seen a car that small. The school had a kombi, and then Mr. Moerane bought this toy that was travelling around the country! That was very interesting! And then all of us followed, after that, bought cars. He set an example.
Something else that was peculiar: he was asked by the teachers’ organisation to prescribe a music piece for the competition, I think for three consecutive years. I remember hearing the first piece, Matlala. It was amazing. Everybody wanted that song sung many times, outside the set programme. On the third occasion, no on the second occasion - I had moved to another school in Matsieng, the paramount chief, King Moshoeshoe, started a school there, he wanted me to move over to that school and help it take off - that year, the set piece for the primary schools was Ruri. I think it is his most beautiful. That school in Matsieng, which was totally on the brink of collapse, won the competition with that piece! We had done splendid work on the piece. I myself was personally involved and we won the competition. People in the country were surprised that a school that was expected to collapse, had no future at all, could at the end of the year …
The following year Mr. Moerane did something that I could never understand. He set a piece, Barali Ba Jerusalema. It’s transitions! All the way, it’s transitions! You move one page, it’s a transition; you move from that one, it’s another transition. And then you think, ‘Oh dear me. This is terrible!’ [laughs]. Many schools could not manage, and in that one we got first position with another school. We tied. It was awful, awful piece of music! Mr. Moerane set such a piece! For a competition for schools! I could never understand. I never had time to discuss that with him.
Ruri was prescribed in 1967. Barali Ba Jerusalema I think is probably 1968/69, I can’t quite remember. Matlala had gone before. For Matlala we took no part. Some other schools competed, but I don’t think Peka High School did. Probably Matlala was sung in 1966, and then Ruri 67, certainly, and Barali Ba Jerusalema, was it 68 or 69? (Tseliso Makhakhe Interviewed by Christine Lucia, Maseru, 20 May 2014).
It is rare to have a first-hand account of the reception of Moerane’s choral music by someone so familiar with the genre. ‘It’s all transitions!’ speaks to the way Moerane structured his music along lines that felt new at the time, using the kind of musical language that no previous African choral composer had done. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Barali Ba Jerusalema was already known in Lesotho in 1968 or ’69, Mzilikazi Khumalo claimed to have ‘discovered’ it ‘in the SAMRO Music Library’, in Johannesburg, South Africa some time during the late 1990s (Khumalo in Moerane 1998, 14). Competitions in Lesotho and South Africa are not all that separate as entities as far as choirs are concerned (or was it different in the 1960s?). Aside from this strange anomaly, ‘discovered’ is an odd word for Khumalo, who was on the SAMRO Board, to use, given that the piece was already in the SAMRO Catalogue and there were other Moerane scores in SAMRO’s library.
For whatever reason Khumalo says this, he obviously - like Makhakhe - found the work fascinating, so much so that he included it in the first of SAMRO’s series of books called ‘African choral repertoire in “dual notation”’, South Africa Sings Vol 1 (Moerane 1998). This ‘previously unknown’ work (Khumalo in Moerane Ibid) was also arranged by white composers - who in some cases received paid commissions - for solo voice and piano, and solo voice and orchestra, and went on to become co-opted as part of a nation-building exercise in the first flush of post-1994 South Africa. All this seems to sit quite heavily against the bare facts that Moerane had been forced out of the old nation of South Africa more than thirty years earlier - in the 1960s - into exile in Lesotho, and had probably never received any form of payment for Barali Ba Jerusalema.
This detour about the reception of one song among 50 in the edition illustrates to what extent probing beneath the surface of a single piece of music by Moerane reveals something about his personal life, his times, his involvement in his community, performance practices in his day (and later), and his music’s reception - then and now. Further interest in these works as catalysts of history, most especially the larger, multicultural music history of this region of the world, is something this edition hopes to inspire. They are crying out for more research.
This is a ‘Scholarly Edition’ online and a ‘Critical Edition’ here. ‘Critical’ and ‘Scholarly’ are more or less synonymous. ‘Critical’ is a more old-fashioned word, coined for the Mohapeloa Edition in 2015, with echoes of 19th-century European music editions. ‘Scholarly’ is the more current (but still European) conceptual framing for digital online editions (Driscoll and Pierazzo 2016). Whatever you call it, the critical element is what sets the edition apart from a general music publication (or reproduction) in which sources and historical backgrounds are not explained, texts are not translated, and scores are sometimes heavily edited for performance, which is not the case here.
Unlike the Mohapeloa Edition where every work was duplicated - one version in staff notation and another in dual notation - the Moerane Edition presents the scores only in dual notation. In this and so many other ways, I learnt a great deal from working on the music of Moerane’s great contemporary.
This edition hopes to follow the precedent of the earlier edition in reaching many people online. Its purpose is to providing new repertoires for performers and scholars and to promote neglected music from southern Africa’s past. African choral composition is still ‘literary work’, as John Knox Bokwe characterised it (Lovedale Archive 1919), redolent with historical and regional inflections, voices and cultural meanings that are not widely known and deserve great scrutiny. The Moerane edition is thus part of a consciously decolonising move to unseat the dominance of Europe’s music histories and scores in southern Africa’s educational and concert life. Both the Moerane the Mohapeloa Editions make for potentially great teaching material in schools, colleges and universities worldwide, as examples of modern African musical style and as reflections of Africa’s racialised past.
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Rhodes University Calendar 1933. 1934. Grahamstown: Grocott and Sherry. Cory Library for Historical Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown.
Rickard, Carmel. 1988. ‘Moerane and the Lost Chord Detectives.’ Weekly Mail (Arts), December 1988.
Roos, Gideon. 1973. Letter to Moerane, 29 June. Johannesburg: Southern African Music Rights Organisation, Yvonne Huskisson Collection file Moerane, M.M.
SAMRO Music Archive. 2003. Catalogue: Works by Michael Moerane 1909-1981 - Extract from the Samro Music Archive Computer Index. Johannesburg: The Southern African Music Rights Organisation.
Shepherd, R.W. 1937. Letter to Michael Mosoeu Moerane, 7 December. Grahamstown: Cory Library for Historical Research, Rhodes University, Lovedale Mission Institution file MS 16 376.
South African Native College Fort Hare, Alice, Cape Province, South Africa. Calendars 1925-1944. Grahamstown: Cory Library for Historical Research, Rhodes University, Lovedale Mission Institution.
The Carolina Times. 1950. ‘Negro Composers’ Works Featured in Symphonic Recital.’ The Carolina Times, June 10, 4. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn83045120/1950-06-10/ed-1/seq-4/, accessed 17 December 2018.
Van der Linde, Bernard. 1972. ‘In Memoriam Friedrich Helmut Hartmann.’ Ars Nova 4(1), 12-15.
Yeats, W.B. 1994 . The Works of W.B. Yeats with an Introduction and Bibliography. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
This is the first published edition of all the extant compositions by South African-born Sotho composer Michael Mosoeu Moerane (1904-1980). Moerane may have composed as many as 87 works between the 1930s and the 1970s, the majority of them for unaccompanied choir to Sesotho, isiXhosa or English texts. Manuscripts or typescripts of only 51 of his compositions have survived, however, and these are the works published here, most of them for the first time, by African Composers Edition (ACE). ACE has prepared a Catalogue of Works by Michael Mosoeu Moerane, which follows the General Introduction to the Moerane Critical Edition below. The Catalogue gives information about missing works, while an article recently published in the journal, Fontes Artis Musicae, ‘Michael Mosoeu Moerane in the Museum’ (Lucia 2020b) provides an account of how scores were collected.
Each score is presented here in dual staff-solfa notation together with a translation of the non-English texts, a brief historical introduction to the work, a list of sources used in preparing the score, and a critical commentary. The General Introduction to the Moerane Critical Edition below gives an overview of Moerane’s life and his music, and individual scores supply further information. All 51 works are available for sale individually or in volumes, which also has audio and visual samples of his music and scholarly access to full scores and selected documentation for bona fide researchers.
Moerane’s works are grouped into four Volumes according to scoring and genre:
Only two choral works appear to have been published during Moerane’s lifetime: Liphala for mixed four-part choir and an arrangement of the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen for three-part female choir, both printed by Lovedale Mission Press in tonic solfa notation in 1938 (Moerane [n.d.1938]; Shepherd 1937). The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) published Barali Ba Jerusalema in 1998 (Moerane 1998), and Della in 2008 (Moerane 2008), although this is a somewhat different version from the Della published here, as is explained on the front pages of the score of Della. A few other works, such as Sylvia, Matlala, Morena Tlake, Tsatsi La Pallo and Ruri have been informally reproduced by SAMRO on demand or by the organisers of choral competitions as prescribed music, over the years.
The process of publishing Moerane’s music in a form that made the music newly accessible to a global public and not only to those who read tonic solfa and understand African language texts, involved a team of workers as I explain in the Acknowledgments. We typeset the orchestral work, Fatše la Heso (My Country) in Sibelius music notation software, working from a copy of the original hand-written manuscript of the full score that is now kept in the Cory Library for Historical Research, Grahamstown. We then generated 30 orchestral parts from this newly typeset score. We researched and collected as many choral scores as we could find and transcribed them from tonic solfa notation into staff notation, using Sibelius. Mrs. Mpho Ndebele translated the texts of the 37 songs in Sesotho by extracting the words from each tonic solfa score and creating a poem from this, following Moerane’s capitalisation of words in order to create the lines of the poem. She then made a literal translation, phoneme by phoneme, into English, and a more idiomatic, poetic translation as well. Mrs. Nosipho Rapiya did the same with the five songs to isiXhosa texts. We kept faithfully to Moerane’s original tempi, metronome marks, dynamics and expressive markings on the newly type-set scores, only modernising the notation in respect to repeat signs and one or two other aspects and formatting the score to show the separate voice parts with their own text and dynamics. A piano reduction of the voice parts was added for rehearsal purposes, and we reinserted the original tonic solfa notation above the staves for the benefit of those who do not read staff notation.
This is a ‘critical’ edition, which aims to present Moerane’s work with accuracy and consistency, respecting the composer’s legacy and presenting it in a form that scholars, teachers, and performers can access. Moerane wrote his choral scores within the literary tradition of tonic solfa, but they were often learned orally and copied by hand or electronically by many different people, for decades. In this process, works were sometimes modified. This edition returns wherever possible to printed, manuscript, or typescript sources in order to prepare a new version of each song, explaining why one source is more authoritative than another. Every score has details on the title page of whom to contact for permission to perform or record the work: the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), which administers copyright invested in the music, for the Moerane family.
 The photograph of Thuso Majalla Moerane on the Dedication page was taken by the author on 12 May 2014.
This Critical Edition of Music by Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa collects together for the first time all extant works published or in manuscript, by J.P. Mohapeloa (1908-1982). Download the General Introduction to the Mohapeloa Critical Edition to read about this edition in more detail. See also Mohapeloa: Mohapeloa Biography and African Choral Music: Music’ elsewhere on this website.The bulk of this Edition constitutes the newly prepared and edited vocal scores, but there are also editorial notes and translations, as well as pages of contextual information, including photographs.
The works of J.P. Mohapeloa are presented in this Edition in rough chronological order by original date of first publication, with a few miscellaneous unpublished items towards the end. (See ‘Catalogue: Overview’ for a comprehensive list of works.) Song titles are always given in italics, as are titles of the collections they come from. Although it is common practice in musicology to put individual titles in scare quotes and titles of song collections in italics, both kinds of title are given in italics here because none of the collections constitutes a ‘cycle’ intended to be performed as a complete entity: indeed, these works are only known individually, through decades of performance practice; and a few have even been previously published individually. Each individual song therefore is seen as constituting a ‘work’ for the purpose of this edition.
The total number of previously published songs located to date (2013) is 135. More than 50 extant unpublished songs are also published here for the first time and many more are known about but not yet traced, so the total number of songs may well rise to more than 200 by the time the edition is complete.
The songs are presented in two versions — staff notation only and staff plus tonic solfa notation — together with the original texts and English translations, and a piano reduction for rehearsal purposes rather than for accompaniment. The two versions of each song are justified by educational history: African choirs in southern Africa mostly do not read staff notation but only solfa, and it is hoped that seeing the output of a familiar composer in conjunction an unfamiliar notation might help overcome this problem and eventually help choirs to widen their repertoire. By the same token, these songs are hardly known outside Africa precisely because they were previously always presented in tonic solfa, so by giving a ‘staff-only’ version, people outside Africa can become better acquainted with this wonderful repertoire. (See African Choral Music: Editing African Choral Music and Mohapeloa Critical Edition: Editing Process.)
In Mohapeloa’s solfa scores, the original language matches the music word by word or syllable by syllable. Lines or phrases are often repeated, or left incomplete because of the polyphonic nature of the texture (one voice part may not have enough notes to complete the line). Different voice parts may have different texts. There are a number of melismas (syllables or words sung on more than one note). Nevertheless, it is possible to separate the song texts and present them as poems, as they are done here. The way Mohapeloa uses language, especially metaphor, is richly poetic. The texts usually describe a particular aspect of nature, landscape, and rural or urban life, or an emotion such as longing, happiness, anxiety. The last line often pulls a punch, adding a new twist to the meaning. Lines of text are discernible in the original songs because Mohapeloa begins each one with a capital letter. Occasionally, as in Meluluetsa (1976), texts were printed separately.
The translations are not there to be ‘sung to’ the notes but to help non-Sotho speakers understand what they are singing about. Texts are added for every voice part, and a brief commentary on each song is provided, to help with interpretation. The song texts alone constitute a major contribution to Sesotho literature, and the music offers a new perspective on composition in southern Africa.
It is hoped that this Complete Edition will be used not only by choirs, but also by scholars of music in southern Africa, for it allows, for the first time, a close study of a huge repertoire of music previously only known via a few isolated and often under-valued examples.
The author is dead and cannot be asked to approve the way music and texts have been presented in this Edition, but the musical score was an item of great importance to him, not only as a piece of music for performance but also as a record of African music’s history and development. He saw his own music as very much part of that development, rooted in the past while striving to satisfy the pressures of modernity.
Publication was for Mohapeloa an essential part of the process of ensuring the continuity of African music, perhaps because he had seen so many examples of how oral tradition can die out. He wrote in the Khoro [‘preface’] to Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika book 1 (1935) that his scores were like cases (‘nyeoe’) presented to a court (‘lekhotla’). Such cases would ensure, he writes, that African Music would be ‘in the right place, where it is kept for the coming generations, as an example that they can follow, or a place to start when investigating about what proper African music should be’ (‘mehlala eo ba ka e salang morao kapa ba h hlakothisa phutsong ea seo ’mino oa Afrika e ka bang o nepahetse ha o ka ba sona’ — extract from Mohapeloa’s Khoro [‘preface’] to Meloli book 1, 1935).
The process of editing Mohapeloa’s involves two stages that overlap: the first is transcribing a tonic solfa score into staff notation, which means typesetting the basics; the second is editing the transcribed score, which involves some degree of interpretation by the editor.
The following extract from Mohapeloa’s Tsohang in tonic solfa and a staff notation transcription of it are shown below it. Both types of score, solfa and staff, are ‘open scores’, which means that each voice part is written on a separate line.
Transcription has several stages. First, the whole tonic solfa song has to be studied from beginning to end in order to assess the structure and set up a score in staff notation, in Sibelius (music notation software). The overall number of bars has to take into account repeats, which in solfa are usually shown as ‘D.S.’ or ‘D.C.’ In modern staff notation repeat bars are normal for repeats, and a D.S. is kept for places where more than one repeated section is involved. Clefs, key signature, time signature are set up, before notes can be inputted. A knowledge of tonic solfa is essential here and requires a short explanation.
Tonic solfa is a notation system that uses the seven letters d r m f s l t, to denote pitch: these stand for the words doh, ray, me, fah, soh, lah, te. A choir has a total range of about four octaves, and different octave registers are shown by means of superscript or subscript strokes or numbers above or below the solfa letters. In African choral music practice, numbers are more common than strokes. Here, then, is what a range of just over four octaves in tonic solfa pitch theoretically looks like:
In C major this could be transcribed in the following way:
In practice, normal doh (d) is middle C for Sop/Alto but an octave lower for Ten/Bass, because in solfa notation one tries to avoid too many sub- or super-scripts, just as in staff notation one tries to avoid too many leger lines. The following two short examples, extracts from Baba Wethu Ophezulu by Alfred Assegai Khumalo illustrate how this works.
Four voice parts implies Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass, although Mohapeloa does not always give these names. Somewhere in the middle of a piece there may suddenly be five parts, too, and sometimes only the context can help decide what the extra voice part is. Mohapeloa states the key of a song at the top of the score. Major keys are the norm, and if a song is in a minor key or modal it is still usually given a major key or doh.
The next stage in the process is determining meter (time signature), which is not stated by composers of solfa scores. It has to be deduced from the way units (bars) are divided by short barlines, colons, dashes, full-stops, commas, or spaces (rests). The most common metrical division in Mohapeloa is quadruple time, (4/4), although two- three- and six-note divisions (6/8) also occur. Mohapeloa sometimes divides the bar is into six units, best shown by 6/8.
Having inputted clefs, key signature, time signature, and notes voice by voice, the transcriber then has to add the text (lyrics). In Mohapeloa’s music, texts are printed or written between voices that share the same text, sometimes only once, the text following the pitch letters closely. See the example from Tsohang above, where the text “Letsatsi ke leo le chaba Tlhorong tsa li-“ is inserted between Alto and Tenor parts. It is easy to see, here, which word or syllable fits which note, and how words are hyphenated. It is often far from easy, especially in Mohapeloa’s more complex scores.
Mohapeloa’s solfa scores show slurs in the music as melismas in the text and solfa notes, through underlining. The transcription into staff notation in this edition shows these as slurs between notes and under-linings in the solfa. Melismas are indicated in the text either by underscored words or by hyphenations (although not all hyphens indicate melismas).
Some editorial interventions are questions of formatting, adjusting what the composer wants to a new format of score; others are interventions made by the Editor to help with interpretation of the music. The latter are shown on the score in square brackets, or written as text before or after the score.
Each score is formatted, and although a template was worked out for the basic structure, in practice this often has to be adapted to allow for notes that lie high or low on a staff, or to allow for extra verses of text, for example. Where possible there are two systems per page, which is easier for choirs to sing from even if it necessitates a slight reduction in note or staff size on some scores. Where there are six voices or multiple verses of text, we have reverted to one system per page, sometimes for just a particular section of a song.
Once basic typesetting and formatting is completed, other things are added and various interventions are made. A piano reduction is put on two extra staves below each system, for choirs used to rehearsing with a piano. See the reduction for the first 4 bars of Tsoang above, which shows Sop/Alto sharing the upper staff and Ten/Bass the lower. If there are more than four voice parts the piano reduction is edited so that notes and stems are logically arranged. Slurs and pauses are included in the piano reduction but no other expression marks.
Dynamics and tempo changes are added into each voice part, which sometimes involves interpretation of the exact point at which they are intended. Mohapeloa only writes dynamics and expression once, above the Soprano part. If lower voices have rests at that point or rests immediately before or after that point, expression needs to be written in a slightly different place. He used the words ‘crescendo’ (or cresc.) and ‘diminuendo’ (or dim.) rather than using hairpins, which are often used in this edition instead because they are less visually confusing. He sometimes wrote crescendos or decrescendos without giving an ultimate dynamic goal, too, so these are added in square brackets unless they are obvious from the context. He might give no expression marks or tempo anywhere, in which case an ‘overall’ metronome mark and dynamic are suggested at the beginning. Other editorial interventions are minimal, and always shown in square brackets.
The final touches of score editing are the addition of headers (title, composer, scoring), page numbers, and copyright information at the foot of each page. The latter is different for each song because it includes ACE catalogue number, JPM catalogue number (a catalogue of his works rather than the publisher’s catalogue), and International Standard Music Number (ISMN). ISMNs differ for each version of every song. The final edited score looks like the following Freeview of Tsohang. (Page shortened to show copyright info.)
This edition could not have been completed without the generous financial assistance of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, New York and infrastructural support from Stellenbosch University, both of whom I heartily thank. I am particularly indebted to the Director of the African Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation, Professor Stephanus Muller, for his belief in the importance of this work and for his huge efforts to ensure that Mellon funds were available. Thanks are also due to the Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Professor Wim de Villiers, who agreed to sponsor a Special Limited Edition of 20 copies published by African Sun Media in 2020.
The Mellon Foundation awarded three postgraduate bursaries, a post-doctoral fellowship and a research assistantship so that training could take place while the edition was compiled. Its production thus became a team effort, and the Africa Open Institute provided the resources and bonhomie for the ‘Moerane team’ to meet periodically between 2017 and 2019. It comprised Mokale Koapeng, Ignatia Madalane, Kgaugelo Mpyane, Mpho Ndebele, Marc Röntsch, Zayne Upton, and in the initial stages Cara Stacey, to all of whom I am deeply grateful. Ultimately, a team cannot do the finicky work of seeing an edition of nearly 700 pages through to publication, and I take full responsibility for the final outcome, relieved to know that mistakes can be corrected on the online edition. (Please notify me of errors, via the contact us page.) In 2017, Zayne Upton converted the online platform of African Composers Edition, originally designed by Albert Sapsford in 2013 for the Mohapeloa Critical Edition and Surendran Reddy Edition, in order to incorporate the Moerane Edition. I am indebted to Zayne for his hard work and continuing maintenance of the site. My profound gratitude also goes to my husband, Michael Blake for supporting me throughout the months of finalisation of the Edition in 2020.
The following institutions are acknowledged for providing valuable material and information:
The following individuals are acknowledged for their intellectual and practical support:
David Ambrose, Michael Blake, Susan Brown, William Fourie, Mark Gevisser, Stephen Gill, Ron and Priscilla Hall, Pamela Hicks, Moriee Khaebana, Victor Lechesa, Eric Lekhanya, John Lucia, Fezeka Mabona, Tseliso Makhakhe, Mafothe Malaoli, Shadrack Mapetla, Mamhlongo Maphisa, Epainette Mbeki, Zakes Mda, Percy and Flesba Mangoaela, Marumo Moerane, Mofelehetsi Moerane, Neo Mahase Moerane, Ms Neo Moerane, Thuso Moerane, Sophia Moerane, Tsepo Moerane, Lebohang Mofelehetsi, Stephanus Muller, Angela Mullins, Mpho Ndebele, Mosa Ndludla, Mpho Ndebele, Sibusiso Njeza, Grant Olwage, Barry Peter Ould, Nthabisng Philison, Leigh Phipson, Mr. T Pitso, Ms Tii Pitso, Matsobane Putsoa, Mr. Ramaema, Gilbert Ramatlapeng, Nosipho Rapiya, Hilde Roos, Albert Sapsford, John Simon, Cara Stacey, Makonye Tiiti, Thembela Vokwana, Zayne Upton, Liz Welsh.
Finally, I heard with great sadness of the death of Thuso Majalla Moerane in July 2020, when this publication was almost complete. This edition of his father’s music was to be dedicated to Thuso, and is now respectfully dedicated to his memory.
When I first met Thuso in 2014, I discovered that he had been curating Moerane’s music for years - he had many scores that people had never seen - and I found him to be a man of immense warmth, humility, and quiet humour. He prepared for my visit in 2014 by getting all the scores in order, checking the lists in his possession and seeking out two unpublished family biographies. He allowed me to scan everything and to interview him, and he expressed relief that all the music would finally see the light of day. I visited him again in 2017, and for the last time in September 2019 in the company of his son, Tsepo, and his daughter, Neo. By this time, it was clear that Thuso was not well. He was unable to join in our conversation, but he responded warmly to the draft edition that I showed him. Thank you, Thuso, for everything that you did for music scholarship in southern Africa, by taking care of this valuable legacy and honouring your father’s memory.
Christine Lucia, August 2020
 The photograph of Thuso Majalla Moerane on the Dedication page was taken by the author on 12 May 2014.
Pronunciation Guide to the Sesotho Texts in the J.P. Mohapeloa Critical Edition (download as PDF)
This guide is not a definitive document but a ‘rough guide’ to a language that has tricky pronunciation issues and is known to few people outside southern Africa. Sesotho home-language speakers themselves do not always agree about spelling or pronunciation, and there are limitations when it comes to singing rather than speaking any language. Bearing this in mind, the following pronunciations of vowels, diphthongs, and consonants are offered in the spirit of helping choirs pronounce what they sing. Comments that help to improve this Guide are welcome via the Contact page on www.african-composers-edition.co.za, and corrections to it can easily be made online. Sesotho vowels and consonants are shown on the left; Sesotho examples from the song texts are given in brackets; the International Phonetic Alphabet symbol is shown in the middle; and the sound in an English equivalent (or occasionally other language) or a comment, is given on the right.
Sesotho Phonetic Equivalent sound
a (ba, ha, tsatsi) = a as in French ‘lac’
aa (lekaagang, thepaa) = a: as in ‘last’ or ‘father’
ae (hae, kae) = aɪ as in ‘fight’ or ‘lie down’
ai (maila, tailoe) = eɪ as in ‘play’ or ‘may’
ao (ao, kaofela) = aɒ as in ‘ah-oh’
au (Taung, Mangaung) = aʊ as in ‘now’ or ‘cow’
b (ba, Basotho) = ɓ as in ‘but’
b’e (abbreviation) = ɓɛ as in b-é
ch (sechaba, chao) = t͡ʃ as in ‘chair’ or ‘church’
d (Sesotho ‘l’ - see below) = d as in ‘do’
e (re, hole) = ɛ as in ‘bed’ or ‘yet’
ea (ea, moea) = ʝɐ as in ‘ya’, almost ‘iya’
ee (tjee, lefeela) = ɛə as in ‘there’ or ‘where’
ei (ei, seilatsatsi) = ɛɪ as in ‘play’ (ay-ee)
eo (eo, eona) = ɛɒ as in ‘Eyore’ (ee-o)
eu (qeu) = ɛu as in ‘euphemism’ (ee-oo’)
f (Afrika, kaofela) = f as in ‘fool’ or ‘fetch’
g (Gauteng, Mangaung) = ɤ as in Dutch ‘gaan’
h (ha, hare) = ɦ as in ‘ham’ or ‘happy’
har’a (‘har[e] a’ elided) = ɦa-ɻ-a
hl (hle, hlaha) = ʎ as in Welsh ‘ll’
i (liba, Morija) = ɪ as in ‘city’
ie (lie, tsietsi) = ɪɛ as in ‘he ends’ (ee-ai)
ii (pii, tiisa) = ɪɪ as in ‘hit it’ (i-i)
iu (liu, Bosiu) = ɪu: as in ‘phew!’ (ee-u)
j (je, joale = d͡ʒ as in ‘joy’ or ‘jump’
k (kae, thaka) = k almost a hard ‘g’
kea_u = kʝɐ-u kya-oo
kh (khomo, khotso) = ɤ as in Dutch ‘gaan’ (soft ‘g’)
l (sala, joale, pelo) = l as in ‘left’ (‘1’ before a, e, o)
l (lifela, lumela) = d as in ‘do’ (‘d’ before i, u)
ll (lla, sello) = ɫ as in ‘ill-lit’ ( as in Al-lah,
not as in Welsh ‘ll’)
m (Morena, Moshoeshoe) = ɱ as in ‘empathy’
mm (mmè, hammoho) = ɱɱ as in ‘I’m maybe’ (2 ‘ms’)
’m (’mè, ‘mutlanyana) = ɱɱ abbreviation of ‘mm’
mmè = ɱɱɛ as in ‘I’m maybe’ (2 ‘ms’)
n (nong, haneu) = ɴ as in ‘noun’
nc = prenasalised dental click as in the sound for ‘tut tut’
nch = prenasalised aspirated dental click as above but aspirated
ng (leng, mong, nong) = ɳ as in ‘in-go’
nk (nka, nkutloe) = nk as in ‘in-k’
nn (nna, senna) = ɴɴ as in ‘in-no’
nya (nonyana, senyamafi) = ɴʝɐ as in ‘on-ya’
o (potla, koto) = ɒ as in ‘not’ or ‘pot’
ō (rōna, thōla) = ɔ: as in ‘or’ or ‘sore’
oa (oa, majoana) = ɒa as in ‘Iowa’ (oh-wa)
oe (utloe, Moshoeshoe) = ɒɛ as in ‘lowest’ (oh-way)
oeu (Mosoeu) = ɒɛ-u as in ‘Soweto’ (oh-ai-oo)
oi (tsoile, likhoiting) = ɔɪ as in ‘coil’ (o-i)
oo (koo, moo) = u: as in ‘soon’
ou (tloukholo) = aʊ as in ‘now’ (ah-oo)
p (lipina, potla) = p as in ‘papa’
ph (liphala, phera) = ph as in ‘purr’ (slightly aspirated)
q (qeu, qojoa) = palatal tongue click
qh (qho, qhooeng) = aspirated palatal tongue click
r = r as in ‘red’ or ‘try’
s (se, thusa) = s as in ‘see’
sh (shebile, lipshamathe) = ʃ as in ‘she’
s’o (‘s[e] o’ elided) = s-ɒ almost as in ‘Seoul’ (e-o)
t (teng, litaba) = somewhere between ‘d’ and ‘t’
th (theng, thula) = th as in ‘top’ (slightly aspirated)
tj (tjee, matjato) = t͡ʃ as in ‘edge’
tš/ts (tšohang, tšaba-tšaba) = tʃ as it ‘its’ (slightly aspirated)
u (utloa, thula) = u as in ‘good’
ua (ua, bua) = u:a as in ‘two one’ (oo-wa)
ue (fue, uena) = u:ɛ as in ‘wet’ (oo-we)
uo (puo, lipuo) = u:ɒ as in ‘too hot’ (oo-o)
uoa (kuoane, shapuoa) = u:wɒ as in ‘do what?’ (oo-owa)
v (Davida) = v as in ‘voice’
w (wa) = ɒa as in ‘Iowa’ (oh-wa)
y (ya, moya) = ʝɐ as in ‘ya’, almost ‘iya’
z (Eben-Ezer) = z as in ‘zoo’
Mohapeloa wrote his own lyrics (texts), occasionally adapting them from sources such as folksongs, hymns, the Bible, or music by other composers. Aside from Coronation March and Freedom in Unity the lyrics are in his home language, Sesotho. They are beautiful poems in their own right, although by and large he did not leave us with examples of the texts written out separately. They can be seen as poems once they are extracted from the scores in which they are embedded. (See African Choral Music: Languages. An exception is the 1976 O.U.P. collection, Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho where texts are published separately as well as on the (tonic solfa) score.
Evidence from two surviving handwritten drafts of other songs suggests that Mohapeloa worked on texts separately from the music - sometimes before, sometimes after, sometimes while composing the music. Freedom in Unity is an unpublished manuscript intended as an anthem for the (then) Organisation of African Unity. It is a rare example that shows how his lyrics evolved. Two drafts of the lyrics of this song, labelled ‘Version I” and ‘Version II’ on the manuscript are shown below, together with the text that he finally settled on.
In most cases, the lyrics had to be extracted from the tonic solfa scores, where the words are interwoven with music notation, where different lines of text are sometimes allocated to different voice parts or lines are incomplete, and where several voice parts often share the same text. Added to this is the problem of repetition: it is sometimes unclear whether word or line repetition occurs for poetic reasons, to underscore a feeling or idea, or musical ones, to fit in with the musical momentum or vocal texture at a particular point. It is obvious where repetition is used, as a refrain (chorus). Most repetitions have been minimised in the texts presented and translated here, or are indicated by an ellipsis (…).
The lyrics are presented as poems on the inside front cover of each song, along with a phoneme-by-phoneme interlinear translation that shows what words literally mean and a poetic translation to help choirs or scholars understand a song’s meaning. Mohapeloa used upper case (capital letters) periodically, so we can see where new 'lines' of verse begin. In this critical edition long lines are occasionally run on for lack of space and repeated choruses/refrains are shortened.
Most of the literal translations were made by Dr Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse. A few translations by Mohapeloa himself exist, although sometimes these are ‘summaries’ rather than line by line translations. The South African poet Stephen Gray added suggestions for rendering the poetic translations more idiomatic in English, and the translations were edited by Mrs Mpho Ndebele in a way that often brings out deeper meanings and renders the poetic meanings embedded in the Sesotho more lyrically in English. The translations are not intended to be sung to the music. Choirs who need help with pronunciation of the Sesotho can download the Pronunciation Guide.
For the most part, Mohapeloa used the Lesotho Sesotho orthography, despite (more likely because of) changes made to this orthography by South African linguists in 1966. (See African Choral Music: Languages.) The question of orthography was a deeply political issue in the 1960s when these changes happened, and when the former Basutoland Protectorate was gearing up for becoming the independent Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966. There are still ‘two orthographies’: one used by Sesotho speakers in Lesotho, the other used by Sesotho speakers in South Africa.
The work of codifying and writing down Sesotho was started by French and French-Swiss missionaries in the 1830s when they first arrived in Lesotho. It was a language that until that time had not been written down. Several ‘French’ features of orthography survive in Lesotho Sesotho, including spelling the syllable pronounced 'oa' ('wa’ in South African orthogrphy) or ‘ua’ ('wa') and ‘ea’ ('ya'). The French encountered sounds that they wrote as diphthongs, and they used a number of hyphenations and accents, including é, ê, è, ō, and š. The ‘d’ sound when it came before an ‘i’ or ‘u’ sounded to the French somewhere between ‘d’ and ‘l’. They wrote it as ‘l’ but it is pronounced 'd' and in South African Sesotho orthography it is written ‘d’. Mohapeloa often elided words, perhaps to make them fit the musical sounds he wanted. There are many other issues and problems associated with translating Mohapeloa’s texts into English, partly due to his own personal usage of the language and partly to the fact that Sesotho is a rch and metaphorical language very different in construction and inflection from English.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika I [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations book 1]. Foreword by Akim. L. Sello, Preface by J.P. Mohapeloa. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1935; 1853; 1977; 1983; 1988. [32 songs]
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika II. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1939; 1945; 1955; 1980; 1996. [32 songs]
Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika III. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1947; 1966; 1977; 1983; 1988. [28 songs]
Khalima-Nosi tsa ’Mino Oa Kajeno [Shining Examples of Today’s Music]: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music. Preface by J.P. Mohapeloa. Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1951; 2002. [5 songs]
________. 2002(1951). ‘Preface’. In Khalima-Nosi tsa ’Mino Oa Kajeno: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music, . Morija: Morija Sesotho Book Depot.
________, transl. Mantoa Smouse. 2009[1988(1953)]. ‘Gateway’ [‘Khoro’]. Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika I, 2nd edition (1953), 3-4. Morija, Lesotho: Morija Sesotho Book Depot.
Christmas, Balisa, Hosanna, O, phokolang, Molimo ke moea, Silevera le gauda, Ahe, Moren’a Khanya! and Na le ’na? in Hosanna: Lipina tsa Kereke [Hosanna: Church Songs], Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 1955 [two printings]. [songs 1, 2, 4, 10, 19, 20, 22, 24]
Lifela tsa Sione [Songs of Zion], Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot, 1st ed. 1844; reprinted many times, last reprint 2010. [Hymn 445 (= Hosanna 19)]
Butha-Buthe, Leheshe-heshe, Lehlomela la Thesele le letle-letle, Leribe, Maloti a Lesotho, and Quthing, in Binang ka Thabo [Sing with Joy] Mazenod: Mazenod Institute, 1963.
Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho [Anthems for the Development of the Lesotho Nation]. Foreword by Dibarata Ghosh. Preface by J.P. Mohapeloa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. 1976. [25 songs]
Mohapeloa, J.P. 1976. ‘Selelekela’ [Preface]. In Meluluetsa ea Ntšetso-pele le Bosechaba Lesotho, J.P. Mohapeloa, 13-14. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.