We chat to Leraba Morena, who fuses traditional sounds of Lesotho with deep electronic cuts, ahead of South African festival Endless Daze 2018

By Alex Brown - 29.10.18

Morena Leraba is a Mosotho musician making waves with his distinct crossover sound that blends the traditional music and poetry of Lesotho with a range on contemporary electronic-based genres such as electro, electronica, Afro-house and Hip-Hop, not to mention other genres like folk, rock and blues. Already having made an impact in parts of the international music scene with his collaborations with German producers and bands as well as a successful premiere in New York, Morena Leraba continues to push the boundaries of genre and identity with his sound. 

Now, with a full band of talented musicians joining the project, Morena Leraba will be playing boutique festival Endless Daze 2018 on the beautiful west coast of South Africa, just outside of Cape Town. After the festival, Leraba will be heading to France, continuing the inevitable spread of his unique fusion sound around the globe.  

Buy tickets for Endless Daze Festival 2018 here

Watch the official music video for Morena Leraba infectious track ‘Impepho’ belowm which won first place in The Jameson Music Video Grant:

We caught up with Morena and chatted about growing up with music, collaborations and what’s in store for this talented musician in the future.

For those not familiar with the unique blend of sounds and genres that make up the music of Morena Leraba, how would you describe your sound, in your words?

’Tis pretty much a concoction of the traditional and modern; fusing Sesotho traditional vocals with electronic music, basically. I’m relying much on Famo music vocal template and the beats are more inclined to Trance, EDM, Dub and anything in between, eventually creating a rather psychedelic sound I’ve dubbed Famo-electro.

Your sound is steeped in a rich and important connection to your Lesotho heritage, tell us about the memories around the first time you were enchanted by music from your country. How old were you? What music was it?

When growing up in an African village, one will find a song is basically an ingredient in several occasions, especially celebrations; during harvest time, initiation. For instance, traditional healers or Zionist Christian churches normally have their gatherings and they’re mainly defined by song. In the village, people have a calling to become traditional healers, “ho thoasa” in Sesotho, and I remember this song by traditional healers during one initiation process. I was probably 5 years old. The song is still haunting me…

Which comes first when you are creating music, the feeling or the sound? Perhaps something else altogether?

I guess ’tis both. I’m not certain. However, I have sessions with producers/musicians and initially, they play the music and I imagine the mood while figuring the message. It’s a process. I’m listening to the melody, I’m thinking vocabulary and there’s imagery as well.

You have recently been playing a great deal of exciting shows, such as your string of gigs in Johannesburg, South Africa, tell us about one that stood out to you, what has been your favourite show of 2018, so far?

Honestly, it is Fête de la musique Joburg 2018. We’re a new band in the process of finding a unique sound; hence, it was humbling to see the crowd singing along. Again, Joburg is more welcoming and people are open to new music, I guess, bearing in mind Sesotho/Sepedi/Setswana are widely spoken in Gauteng. Also, I’ve done a number of appearances with the BLK JKS and Joburg audiences wanted to hear more, I guess.

Speaking performing live, you're off to France soon, what are you looking forward to the most about this opportunity?

In all honesty, I see this as the band’s introduction to Europe and while we’re not necessarily on a tour, S/O to Festival Rituel 2 for being interested in our music. We’re hoping to play more gigs in Europe and the good thing is, there’s a possibility of meeting other event organizers and booking agents abroad. Personally, I also see traveling as an opportunity to meet and collaborate with other artists.

Any upcoming/unknown/emerging artists on your radar that the world should know about?

Fedi and Rams. I first saw the duo performing at the RayBan stage at this year’s Oppikoppi Festival in Northam and we met again at Fak’ugesi’s BEAT LAB in Johannesburg. I’m afraid Europe should also pay attention to Robin Third Floor from Durban. I also have a surprise from Lesotho and I’ll say when the time is right…

Let’s get technical for a moment, tell us a bit about the gear and instruments that are crucial to the sound of Morena Leraba. Steve Hogg is a DJ/sampler on live production, fusing sounds from synthesizer. We have other live elements; Molefi Makananise from BLK JKS plays bass, Mpho Molikeng on percussion, Thami Ngwenya on marimba and backing vocals, and lastly, we’ve added Saul Nossel on drums. I’m on main vocals, swinging between two microphones. You’ll be performing at Endless Daze Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, this November, what are you most looking forward to about the Festival? WITCH. I mean, ’tis my first time to perform at Endless Daze, however, BLK JKS performed in 2017 and I’ve been keeping a close eye ever since, looking at the line-up and such. I’m also inspired by rock music and I’m looking forward to meeting and actually watching other bands perform. I’ve seen Msaki and the Golden Circle perform in Lesotho but it was a small venue; I’d love to see her at Endless Daze stage. Lastly, what exciting things can we expect from Morena Leraba in 2019? Perhaps, an album. There’s much pressure now because we’ve performed at festivals, locally and internationally and I’ve been focusing much energy on collaborations, but eventually, people need a body of work. With more performances, we’re gaining more experience and we’re surely touring the world in 2019. //
All image credits go to Kgomotso Neto Tleane.
Watch Morena Leraba performing live this year at a Human Rights Day celebration in Johannesburg, South Africa, below.

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