Listening to….Tau ea Lesotho

This is a rip from a vinyl LP released by Stern’s back in 1988, which was a pretty rare example of  a European realease for this kind of ‘Sotho’ music; originating from Lesotho as the name would suggest.

‘Sotho’  has a pretty distinctive style and instrumentation, with driving rhythms provided by an accordion, underpinned by  basic percussion and sometimes by rumbling bass guitar. 

 There was a similar album on Globestyle in the late 80’s that featured the combined talents of  singer Puseletso Seema,  backed by the group Tau Ea Linare, but aside from these rare birds, European releases for Sotho-Traditional music are virtually unknown.


 To give you a flavour of what the music is about, here’s a link to a good video, though not of Tau ea Lesotho;

 YouTube does have a Tau ea Lesotho video available, but it’s really just a travelogue of life in modern Lesotho, rather than a performance video.  It can be viewed here;

 Lesotho is a kingdom that is completely surrounded by South African territory and has a population of around 2 million people. The country is predominantly on higher ground than South Africa and is therefore cooler and with more rainfall than its neighbour.  The economy is based on diamonds, hydro-electric power and water, all of which are sold to South Africa.  Socially, Lesotho has one of the highest incidences of AIDS/HIV in the world, with nearly 50% of urban women under 40 affected by the virus.

 Many people from Lesotho leave the country in order to work in South Africa, specifically in the gold mines to the west of Johannesburg.  The work is hard and the living conditions spartan,  so many of the songs performed by bands like Tau ea Lesotho have lyrics that deliberately evoke life ‘ back home’.  People living in Lesotho may be poor by comparison to the mineworkers of RSA, but there are women and children, clean air and beautiful mountain scenery there.  In this sense, for these miners, much of this Sotho-Traditional music has , like the Afro-American Blues or the Celtic folk song tradition, become a way of expressing nostalgia for a simpler life and solidarity with a culture from which they are – perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently – estranged.



2 responses to “Listening to….Tau ea Lesotho

  1. Hi there, agentcoup. me again. Shan’t mention Man Un’s defeat last night cause they have a chance to rectify things next week.

    And I’m not writing in response to this blog in particular. What I want to know is when you’re going to get off your ar.. and get/borrow Season One of The Wire so you can write about it.

    I’ve been looking forward eagerly for your review and yet …nothing.

    Want to borrow my copy? Let me know.


    Maggie Knutson x

  2. Hi Maggie,

    Not going to happen for a while I’m afraid, Maggie – I have a lot of stuff going on right now and a huge backlog of movies to watch on DVD as well. Very kind of you to offer to lend me your copy but that would just put me under more pressure! Incidentally, I don’t know if you’re a fan but ‘Mad Men’ is back for a third series next week…..

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