African Composers Edition

Online publisher of African compositions

Khulu, Phutha Thupa

Mohapeloa wrote Khulu, Phutha Thupa in the early 1930s, publishing it in Morija in 1935 as song No. 18 of 32 in his first song collection, Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika. It is a game song, typical of children’s songs everywhere. The words are nonsensical, their literal meaning being ‘tortoise, pick up stick’, so this is a song about tongue twisters, rather than tortoises. ‘Khulu, phutha thupa’ is meant to be repeated many times - very fast, like the English ‘Sister Susie sewing shirts for sailors’ without tripping over the words, even when they are suddenly rearranged like they are at the end of the song. Mohapeloa learnt from an early age children’s love of verbal games in Sesotho and he delighted in them, sometimes making them up for himself. ‘Khulu, phutha thupa’ is a standard tongue-twister, and in a larger sense serves to remind us of the importance of games (‘lipapali’) as a broad category of cultural expression in Lesotho.



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