Mohapeloa wrote Tšaba-tšaba in the late 1940s or 1950-51, publishing it in Morija in 1951 as the fifth of 5 songs in Khalima-Nosi tsa ’Mino Oa Kajeno: Harnessing Salient Features of Modern African Music. It is the shortest song in the volume, and like so many other songs by Mohapeloa it espouses the values of education, values inculcated by the missionaries in Lesotho - who also gave Mohapeloa quite a solid music educational background - along with the values and precepts of Christianity. ‘Tšaba-tšaba’ was used as the title of a previous song by Mohapeloa, JPM083 in Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika book III (1947). There it denoted a ‘dangerous’ fast 1940s dance style in which couples tried not to bump each other. In that song the title was translated ‘Tšaba-tšaba Dance’, while here in JPM097 the more literal meaning of ‘be afraid’ is encapsulated in the title, since it is appropriate to the message of this song: hence, ‘Watch Out!’
The way the song celebrates and espouses education is a clear message to the youth, especially one guesses, the youth of Lesotho (‘children of Africa’ in the song): it tells them to make good use of education, which, as Mohapeloa well knew would help to build the new country and develop its people towards their inevitable political independence. The song thus has a deeper resonance than the most obvious one of ‘don’t mess around’. The way Mohapeloa uses the English word ‘brakes’ in the wonderfully understated colloquialism ‘amahyy brakes!’ (‘apply brakes!’) is an excellent example of cultural borrowing - borrowing from the landlord’s culture (because Basutoland was still a British Protectorate in 1951) in order to warn the children of Africa not to play around with their future.
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