By: Thandiwe Kubere
Moana nong- an afro jazz music performer and producer, prides himself with being able to uplift and create love in his mother tongue in an era when modernization is taking over and roots are slowly being forgotten. He does all this through his music which addresses situations or problems Basotho are commonly faced with, thereby disseminating what needs to be heard in an entertaining way.
Taking a look at some countries, especially South Africa and Nigeria, entertainment is partly at the forefront of lifting the economy of those countries with regard to the support and attention it is given. Upcoming artists are groomed and their talents are nurtured so as to put them on a global scale. Hoping to make a difference in the mountain kingdom, Lesotho born and bred artists have been putting in efforts to showcase their talents in every platform offered to them.
Moana nong- from the clan of an eagle, as Sello Mokhako calls himself, owes his humble beginnings to Ha Hlalele, Rothe, in the outskirts of Maseru where he was born and raised by his grandparents. Now a; performing artist, music producer, sound engineer, water engineer and more, he describes his music to be indigenous and timeless. His mission is to change the perception of music in Lesotho where it is regarded just for fun whereas one can make a living out of it.
Moana nong who is now aged 32 began his academic journey at Ha Hlalele primary school but later had to move to Mazenod to assist his grandfather who was living alone at that time. There he continued his studies at Machekoaneng LEC. After a couple of years, due to unforeseen life circumstances which included losing a parent, he had to move back to Ha Hlalele where he then got raised by relatives from his mother’s side of the family. He explains his upbringing as quite a difficult one and had to work hard from a young age. He completed his primary and furthered his studies at Ha Hlalele high school.
Regardless of the challenges life brought him, he always made sure to perform exceptionally well at school. “I became more aware of the potential I had in studies of intelligence in high school. This is because I participated in a lot of competitions and often I was amongst the top performers. I obtained at lot of rewards, be it; medals, trophies and certificates even though we were in a rural area and were not as privileged as students in urban areas.” He explains that it was during this time he discovered his love for music. However, due to being brought up in a rural place and being exposed to a lot of things, he did not know he could actually make something out of it so he did not give it much thought.
When he was in Form D, he was called by the school music conductor who asked why he was not part of the choir but Mokhako could not give a reason that was when he decided to give it a try. The school got sponsored with science material and music instruments by a certain organization. “Amongst those, there was a stage piano and I was one of the bothersome students because I would be on it every day around lunch time, so it had a destructive loud sound. The principal would call me to his office until he realised that he was fighting a losing battle so he just let me be. Every time they heard the sound, they knew it was Mokhako. I would practise the notes every single day”, he said.
Moana nong said at that point he never dreamt of himself as a musician but just thought of music as a hobby. It wasn’t until he got introduced to sound softwares at Lerotholi polytechnic where he was pursuing his studies in water engineering. He also got instructions and learned how to make beats and instrumentals from YouTube. “Because of my age at that time, I thought I was too old for singing so I thought that since I love music, let me produce others. This was in 2018.” Around 2019, he decided to give music a shot.
He has produced and worked with a number of the country’s upcoming artists including the likes of Dj Masilo, Q Real, Bobby Stringz, Radboy to mention a few.
When he completed his studies at Fokothi, he went in search of studio equipment and started his collection bit by bit depending on what he could afford. He later got his breakthrough after releasing a song in 2020 titled “khomo phutha lichaba” which got great reception and even got a platform on radio for its launch. Then he later released an album “sekoele Basotho” in 2023. “The lyrics of the song are very cultural. I was calling out to the nation that it is about time we go back to our roots- our culture and our tradition. The song addresses how quick we are to follow others and this is more visible on cultural days when we notice Basotho proudly dressed in other cultural gear. This is because I am very passionate about my roots, and I am proud of where I come from. I am deeply-rooted in our culture, so that is the message I wanted to portray”, he said. The song is available on different music platforms.
Moana-nong explained the tempo for his songs is mostly for adults and cannot easily be understood by the youth. One of the reasons is to strategically advertise and sell his music. This is because it has come to his realization that most of the youth do not purchase music but adults do and know the value of doing so. “I want to make music that does not expire, songs and albums which people will still want to listen to in 2030. You will find that other songs are so hyped up after their release and lose their value shortly after.”
Living up to his name by setting himself apart from the rest of the world and evidently showing the world that it is possible, with the right amount of dedication for one to do different things at a time, he said his name come from his clan “Mokhatla” and their totem is an eagle, which is perfect for his brand since he aims to fly high. The multi-talented artist, enrolled for a sound engineering course online and successfully completed it, obtaining his certificate early this year. This was to tone the skills he already has and gain a few other lessons to deliver sound which is not only good for the ear but on a professional level as well.
With culture and Sesotho being his music signature, Moana nong draws his inspiration from the late music legend Ts’epo Ts’ola and had hoped to one day work with him even though his dream was unfortunately cut short. He also looks up to Selimo Thabane, Ringo Madlingozi and Sjava because of how they value their language, protect as well as spread love through their heritage.
He declared the music industry as challenging. “It needs someone who is patient, persistent, and consistent and who loves what they do so that it does not eventually feel like a burden.” He believes slowly but surely the perception around entertainment is changing for the better in Lesotho and has realized that a few individuals have started paying the long awaited attention, giving hope that in the near future the art and talent in Lesotho will be awarded the recognition it deserves.
“Everyone wants to be prosperous in life and at some point go international, but nothing is as fulfilling and rewarding as going out there and representing your country- where you come from.” He said.
Moana nong has recently released a song titled “palesa ea leoatle” which is an expression of beauty with the use of the mother tongue.