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; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jn8p2QiI1A
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; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvHeK8T_dYg
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.