Teboho Mochaoa, known commonly by his stage name Morena Leraba is a Lesotho-born singer and rapper. He fuses traditional Sesotho lyrics with Electro, Afro House and Hip hop. His lyrics are rooted in the genre, Famo. A sub-genre of Sesotho traditional music or poetry, Famo is famous in Morena Leraba’s home district of Mafeteng (south of Lesotho capital’s Maseru).
“Because we also have influences from elsewhere musically, I’ve always re-imagined Famo. I’ve always re-imagined Sesotho traditional music. Coming to Johannesburg and meeting all the musicians that contributed to our journey so far was the manifestation of that re-imagination.”
Much of the mystique surrounding Morena Leraba stems from his roots in Lesotho, a mountainous country that is enclosed within South Africa. Like most of his countrymen, he spent much of his youth as a shepherd (in the village of Matholeng, Mafeteng), taking inspiration from the solitude that tending animals brings. For Morena Leraba, retaining deeply-sunk roots in Lesotho is more than sentimentality: it’s the stuff of his creative life. “These are memories of old and here lies our strange truths - stories from our grandmothers, of underworld waters, villages and other-worldly beings - and you have seen this before (arcane ways of our people). Our futurism - old riddles have become new.”
Morena Leraba collaborates with an extensive list of musicians, both on stage and in the studio - most notably Thamsanqa Ngwenya on marimba and backing vocals. Together they offer up a celebration of the shepherd’s charisma through stories that touch on the village but that also reflect Morena Leraba’s more recent experiences – both (and especially) his time in Johannesburg, and his travels abroad. The stories told his songs are nourished by accounts of other Basotho migrant workers that Morena Leraba normally commutes with.
“These are stories of migration. Labour in the informal sector. Johannesburg and its hardships. Hope. Finding strength and courage. Spiritual calling. Death and having to live with the memory of loved ones.”
Over the past eight years, Morena Leraba has become a globally acclaimeBd flag bearer of a remodelled Lesotho sound, manifested through a series of live performances, numerous high-wattage collaborations and a debut EP recorded in Johannesburg out now.