Chabana sa Khomo (vocal score)

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Chabana sa Khomo was composed in the late 1920s or early 1930s and first published in tonic solfa notation in 1935 as song No. 2 in Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika. Mohapeloa told anthropologist David Coplan in an interview in 1978 that Chabana is based on two folksongs, used in the first and second half of the song respectively. ‘Mong’a kobo’ (Owner of the hide) is in the second half and is identifiable from two field recordings made by Hugh Tracey in Lesotho in 1951 and 1952, although it is possible that Mohapeloa’s version, widely known by 1950, may have influenced the folk version Tracey recorded. A recording called ‘Mong’a kobo’ in the SABC Sound Archive is a different version of the same song, sung by schoolchildren.

The Soprano and Bass call-and-response at the beginning of the song must come from a folksong “as it is sung in the villages … in original Sotho style” as Mohapeloa put it to David Coplan in an interview in 1978, beginning, ‘Kaofela …’: this is the song “actually sung when the skin is scraped to make a karos [blanket] … Only the rhythm changes in [section] two, to [a] work rhythm”. This rhythm is expressed antiphonally as if accompanying the brushing movements of villagers cleaning a cowhide to make it pliable.

In rethinking traditional 2-part men’s folksongs for STB, Mohapeloa chose a key (A-flat major) that places the opening Soprano entry in rather a high register, but also accommodates the low Bass notes that come later in the song. He added the third (Tenor) part to the opening of Chabana sa Khomo, as he explained to Coplan, “as a foreign element”, “to make it more interesting, but felt that “[t]he two [folk] tunes blend comfortably”. The pentatonic scale, repetition of adjacent chords and declamatory style reference other folksong elements running throughout the song.