African Composers Edition

Online publisher of African compositions

Tselane

Mohapeloa wrote Tselane in the early 1930s, publishing it in Morija in 1935 as song No. 19 of 32 in his first song collection, Meloli le Lithallere tsa Afrika. Like many of his songs, it references birds in a fairly precise way, the canary and weaver bird in this case. Tselane is what Mohapeloa called “a folk tale song”, and as David Coplan noted after an interview with Mohapeloa in 1978, he “took the words after he had composed a song and had no words” but there was “no relationship to a traditional tune”. After the song became known on the Witwatersrand, “the Manhattans used Mohapeloa’s version, but jazzed it”. The Manhattan Brothers were a jazz vocal group in the 1940s and 50s. They also ‘jazzed’ Mohapeloa’s Chuchumakhala.) The music has some interesting chromatic harmonies and clashes between B-flat and B-natural and it relies heavily on syncopation, which is perhaps why it appealed to the Manhattan Brothers.

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