Straight Outta Lesotho: The Best Shepherd Rhyme Spitter in the Biz
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Morena Leraba, a shepherd by trade, is doing his damnedest to put his country on the rap map. How? Eclectic rhymes road tested in the hills of Lesotho.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Morena Leraba, in the isolated, snow-dappled hilltops of the small, landlocked kingdom of southern Africa’s Lesotho, used to tend livestock. Festooned with a woolen cape, gumboots and a balaclava, Leraba herded goats and sheep through days of dreaming about something that had been forming in his head. Specifically: music.
Now, at the age of 32, Leraba — real name Teboho Mochaoa — has left the shepherd’s life behind, and if he has the occasion to don the cape, boots and balaclava it’s because that’s what he wears onstage. And onstage is where his previous dreams have become a reality: Leraba’s music is a dizzying combination of traditional famo music, Sesotho shepherd poetry and electronic beats, all making for a messy and masterful mélange that pays tribute to both Lesotho’s ancient shepherd culture and one much more modern.
“Maybe it’s a new kind of music,” Leraba says. “It’s a good thing to combine the old and the new, so I’m simply just doing that.”
And more than just that, Leraba’s been reaching out, connecting with and ultimately collaborating with bands, producers and DJs digging on his out-of-left-field take on rap that’s at once both here and now and way, way out there. So from folks as far away as Brooklyn and Rio de Janeiro, Leraba is giving voice to not only Lesotho’s shepherds but also providing a conduit in his musical travels to cultures from similarly remote locations and populations in Mongolia, the Sahara or wherever he finds them.
Now working primarily out of the capital, Maseru, Leraba is today dreaming another kind of dream, one that uses his voice to add the unheard-of to the relatable, and a global voice to the sounds of the mountains and electronic music. Listen closely.
Video by Alex Dunham