African Composers Edition

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Chuchumakhala

Train journeys were of great significance for anyone from Lesotho, a small independent kingdom dependent on South Africa economically. By the 1930s much of its economy was derived from migrant labour working on the mines around Johannesburg and Mohapeloa must have experienced the long train journey from Maseru to Johannesburg during his years living on ‘the Reef’ several times. He also experienced the music the Reef had to offer, including musicians such as Griffiths Motsieloa. The jazz influence in Chuchumakhala was probably why it was one of the songs arranged and recorded by the Manhattan Brothers (in 1956). The regularity of phrases imitate the rhythmic regularity of the imagined train (perhaps choirs in the 1930s did ‘choochoo train’ actions to the song), and the periodic ‘stop-starts’ and changes of tempo in the song also probably suggest the train stopping at stations along the way.

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