Retable Mokete, better known as Khosi Mosotho Chakela, was a singer and a Mosotho – a member of the Basotho ethnic majority in Lesotho, a former British colony and an enclave in South Africa with a population of 2.1 million. inhabitants. Chakela grew up in the townships of South Africa. After years of living on the streets, then working on construction sites, he recorded the album Motsamai le Chakela at the age of 30. no 1 (Shear Record Company, 1999). It was the beginning of a brilliant career in famo, a traditional musical genre in Lesotho.
Although his songs are still on the Lesotho playlists of streaming platforms, when Chakela died of Covid in January 2021, his death went largely unnoticed on the international music scene. It has, however, been widely discussed in the so-called Accordion Triangle – three villages in Lesotho’s Mafeteng district which have produced several generations of famous musicians – and among the more than 180,000 Basotho people living and working in South Africa.
Chakela was a notorious “musical gangster” in the words of Rataibane Ramainoane, founder and editor-in-chief of Moafrika FM. a private radio station Sesotho (the language of the Basotho). Chakela was due to appear in the Lesotho High Court last March as a co-defendant in the trial of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Thabane and his second wife, Maesaiah, were accused of ordering a hit on his first wife, Lipolelo, who had refused to divorce, and allegedly asked a group of famous musicians, including Chakela, to carry out the contract. The charges were dropped in July because prosecutors could no longer locate a key witness. Ramainoane told me that he himself had been on Chakela’s blacklist from 2006 to 2011. “Without God’s help, the accordion cowboy could have killed me many times. (He is also a pastor of the Nation of God Apostolic Church.)
Famo was once the music of the Basotho shepherds who went to work in the mines near Johannesburg. Famous singers have performed in (…)
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