African Composers Edition

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Mohapeloa wrote Moshoashoailane in the 1930s, publishing it in Morija in 1939 as the seventeenth of 32 songs in Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika ka J.P. Mohapeloa: Buka ea Bobeli [African Songs and Extemporary Harmonizations by J.P. Mohapeloa: Book II]. Mohapeloa continued numbering songs in Meloli II - his second songbook - from where his previous book, Meloli I ended; thus Moshoashoailane is song No. 49 in Meloli II, not No. 17. Paramount Chief of the Basotho from 1822 to 1870, Moshoeshoe I took responsibility for forging a number of clans in the region into a nation, the Basotho, hence the references in the song to him as ‘founder’. The Basotho kept their main enemies - the Zulu and the Boer - at bay during a series of wars in the 1850s and 60s, but eventually they could not hold out against the Boer’s superior weaponry and so Moshoeshoe appealed for help to Queen Victoria, and Basutoland became a British Protectorate in 1868. The phrase ‘found very far away’ may refer to this way in which he was ‘known overseas’ from that time onwards. The following year, however, 1869, the British and Boer signed a treaty that removed much of Basutoland’s arable farming land in the west and effectively reduced the nation by half. Lesotho has remained independent but very poor, and economically dependent on South Africa, by which it is entirely surrounded. Moshoeshoe I is commemorated every year in Lesotho as a public holiday on 11 March, which may have been the day on which this song was first sung.



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