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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Lesotho shepherds turn junk into funk
Sotho Sounds
Sotho Sounds' tour of Britain was highly successful
A group of shepherds from Lesotho are making an impact in the musical world with their creation of 'Junk funk' - songs performed on instruments made from rubbish.

With recycled material including disused oil cans, car tyres, twigs and a kitchen sink, the band has managed to put together two fiddles, a bass guitar of sorts - and a drum.

"I got some branches from a tree because I needed two sticks to support the wire and the sink that I had cut up," drummer Tumelo Mpokoane told BBC World Service's Focus On Africa magazine.

"After that, I found the tube of a tyre. So before I made the actual drum, I found someone to help me stretch the tube over the drum, while I tied the tube to the drum with wire.

"Afterwards, I found a car tyre and cut it for my drumsticks. If I did not use the sticks made from tyre, the drum would not have had a good sound."


The band members are shepherds from Malealea village on Lesotho's Maluti Mountains. They are self-taught musicians, reminiscent of what East Africans call jua kali - informal artisans who earn their living by working in the open under the hot sun.

I hope they buy land and build a cultural centre where they can perform, run workshops, sell things, and make sure that there is sustainable development
Producer Risenga Makondo
In addition to Mpokoane, Rameleke Rantho is the bassist, while his cousins Tseliso Rantho and Tankiso Pita play the guitars (katara in Sesotho), using fishing lines for their strings.

Meanwhile Yosefa Chaka plays the one-stringed fiddle (qwadinyana). The youngest member of the band is 14-year-old Richard Mohale. He and his cousin Paseka are the group's dancers.

Tyres also feature in the making of the qwadinyana. According to Chaka, the one string on his fiddle came from the residue of a burnt tyre.

The seven have now formed Sotho Sounds, composing music and making instruments in between looking after animals.

South African Risenga Makondo became the group's producer and with the help of Womad Foundation put out their debut CD, Sotho Sounds Malealea, in July.


Although Makondo is pleased with the accolades the band received in the UK, he said he remained cynical about the attitude of Africans back home.

The instruments are fashioned from cans, wire and wood
"You have a lot of intellectuals in Africa who basically do not take notice of their culture until they come out of Africa, and then they realise that they are missing something," he said.

"I think that in Africa the band is not very much appreciated because what it is playing is not pop African music with electricity and saxophones."

But he stressed that he felt the band members had achieved "mental freedom" when they went on their UK tour in July, which climaxed in the Womad festival.

"The most important thing these guys have learnt is meeting with English people not in a colonial context but on an equal basis," he said.

"They have been teaching their music and learning about Western music. I am sorry but in Africa or southern Africa, white people don't show black people the respect these guys got here."

He says band members must now seize the "opportunities they get and use their money properly by investing it in something useful for their group and community."

"Being a musician today is not enough," he argued.

"I hope they buy land and build a cultural centre where they can perform, run workshops, sell things, and make sure that there is sustainable development."


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