MASERU — Mohapeloa Singers, one of Lesotho’s biggest choirs, has split for the second time in less than three years.
Three conductors — Monaheng Monyaka, Pali Mariti and Daniel Ralethoko — left the award-winning choir last month to form Maseru Harmonic Voices following a fight over leadership.
The battle for the control of Mohapeloa Singers started soon after the death of senior conductor, Mabote Mejaro, two weeks before the annual African Melody Festival.
This is the second time that the group has split in three years.
In May 2009 a group of disgruntled members left Mohapeloa Singers to form JP Choristers. Those who formed JP Choristers accused the Mohapeloa Singers leaders of mismanagement and abuse of funds.
Monyaka, who leads Maseru Harmonic Voices, told the Weekender he left the choir because some people were not happy that he was going to take over.
He was expecting to take over as the senior conductor after Mejaro’s death because he was the second in command.
But he claimed his attempt to lead the choir met stiff resistance from some “members who considered themselves senior to me”.
What triggered the fight, Monyaka alleged, was his suggestion that despite Mejaro’s death the choir should continue preparing for the African Melody Festival.
“After senior conductor, Mejaro died only two weeks before the finals, as second in command I suggested we continue with practice but the veteran choristers remarked that they will not be led to a competition by low-ranking conductors,” Monyaka said.
“They continued to victimise other choristers who agreed with our vision of continuing with preparations.”
Monyaka alleged that some members remarked that they could not be led by “low-ranking Catholics”.
“As a leader and member of the choir I thought the management would deal with the disputes but they took their time until I decided to resign,” Monyaka said.
“After I read my resignation letter to the choir and the administration committee, two conductors resigned and other choristers handed over their uniform and that is how the choir was formed.”
He said the idea of forming a new choir was first suggested in August last year and the late Mejaro was party to it because he too was concerned with the “quality of the choir”.
“But the idea was put on hold pending improvements and understanding of our views,” he said.
Monyaka said after Mejaro’s death the fights intensified and “some of the attacks became personal”.
Maseru Harmonic Voices has 23 choristers from Mohapeloa Singers and 14 other aspiring choristers.
Monyaka said their mandate as Maseru Harmonic Voices is to develop choristers and choirs, participate in activities, compete at both local and international level and invest in youth talents.
“All that we wanted didn’t seem to be the mandate of Mohapeloa so we had to part ways so that our objectives are met,” Monyaka said.
He added: “We are here now and all our objectives are going to be implemented. Our footsteps are going to be heard.”
Mohapeloa Singer’s president Thabo Mokhutsoane said he had heard that some ex-Mohapeloa Singers members had formed a new choir but did not have further details.
He confirmed that there were misunderstandings prior to the split.
“One of our issues was people not understanding the Mohapeloa brand and what it stands for so if people choose to leave because they don’t understand our culture we will not stop them,” Mokhutsoane said.
“We are however proud to see that Mohapeloa is giving birth to other choirs irrespective of the circumstances. Our mandate of an academy is being implemented.”
He said the splits have not affected Mohapeloa. The choir’s failure to participate at the 2012 African Melody Festival had nothing to do with the split, he explained.
“The only competition we had planned on participating in was the 2012 AMF but after the death of Mabote (Mejaro), the choir wasn’t fit enough to go and win. We were engaged in so many activities towards his funeral that we decided to withdraw.”
He said he was not worried that some members of Mohapeloa are forming new choirs.
“We are seeing our contribution of many choirs being formed in the industry so we are happy as Mohapeloa to see that our choristers are moving forward and forming choirs.”
Mohapeloa was formed in May 1993.