Arts & Leisure

The great Phaumanyetse is no more

Chris Theko

Famo music legend and founder of one of Lesotho’s popular music groups Tau Ea Matšekha, Forere “Phaumanyetse” Motloheloa has died. 

Motloheloa, 74, died on Monday morning at the Berea Hospital after a very short illness, this is according to his former manager Paul Tlali. 

Tladi who managed the popular Famo music group from 1980, defined the late band leader as someone who loved Sesotho traditional music and one who has contributed in putting it on the map. 

Tladi, the younger brother of the famous music promoter Peter Tladi of South African fame Joy of Jazz, explained that when Motloheloa was met by death he had just returned back home to Lesotho from South Africa. 

“I met these guys back in 1980 when they had decided that they were going to quit working in the mines and focus on music. They did not know how to take their careers forward and because I am also passionate about Sesotho traditional music, I decided to work with them and became their manager,” Tladi said. 

He added that he used to admire how much of a hard worker Motloheloa was. 

“He was a hard working person who had a big passion for the art of music,” he said. 

The accordionist started the group around the late 1960s while still working in the mines in Johannesburg with Apollo Ntabanyane and the late Lepipi Ramoadi.

They became the first major recording artists to make a living from Famo music.

The group’s only surviving member Apollo Ntabanyane, said Forere was like a brother to him hence his death left a real scar. 

“I am heavily touched by the death of my brother and longtime colleague, we were especially more family than just band members so this is a lot more personal,” Apollo Ntabanyane.   

“We were the pioneers of the famo genre, there would not be the genre if it wasn’t for him and me, although at the time most people did not understand or like it.

“In the beginning it was just the two of us but as time went, there would be more artists and the love for this genre grew amongst Basotho especially the fellow miners.

“Tau Ea Matšekha was our first hit that gained us a lot of support and made us a lot of money,” Ntabanyane recalled.

“In the late 80s we went our separate ways in terms of making music as I started my own journey as Apollo Ntabanyane,” he said. 

He said one thing he will remember the most about his brother (Forere Phumanyetse) is his love for Famo music. 

“He was a person who had no beef with any one and would always avoid any issues or quarrels, he was a man of peace all the time and that is one thing we will miss about him the most,” said Ntabanyane.  

Among the highlights of their career, the group travelled to Sweden in 1997 where they performed some of their greatest hits including one their hits, Ke Ikhethetse, which was written by Motloheloa and became a global hit after being remixed by American superstar Paul Simon who titled it “The Boy in the Bubble”.

The song was featured in the Grammy award winning album Graceland which was released in 1986. In 1989 the song was named the official anthem for the town of San Francisco in the United States of America (USA) and it picked at number two in the United Kingdom music charts. 

It is said that when the song was recorded Motloheloa was not very fluent in speaking English.     

Tau Ea Matšekha means Lion of Matšekha named after the Matšekheng village in the Leribe district.

Across the Southern region of Africa, the band was famous for their hit song ‘Ha Peete Kea Falla’.

During their time they released over 5 albums such as Lumelang Bakuena, Intombi Zia Baleka, Li na le baji, Forere ke Ngaka, Se ka nkobisa, Masopha and Sello sa Lekoa. 

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