MASERU — Imagine Khahliso Mphephoka clad in fatigues, clutching a truncheon or slinging a rifle over his shoulder while manning an entrance to an office building.
Or a young man who has run away from home toiling in a vineyard in Cape Town or hawking cassettes and CDs on the streets to eke out a living.
Mphephoka could have been anyone had it not been for a phone call that would turn around his life.
Today the 26-year-old stands tall in the gospel music sector, raking in award after award.
So impressive has he been that his talent will take him to China for a week-long tour starting on September 5.
But it has all not been rosy for Lesotho’s hottest gospel musician.
Born to ‘Maitumeleng and Boy Mphephoka in Matebeleng village in Quthing, growing up was never going to be easy for the musician whose father had seven other children to look after.
Mphephoka decided he wanted to pursue a musical career during his days at Masitise Secondary School.
He was complaining the school was too far from his village so he reckoned it would be better to become a musician.
His parents would not agree and he reluctantly continued at the school.
But it was not to be for long.
One day he was given money for school fees, but he decided to convert it to bus fare to sneak out of the country.
There he was, off to Cape Town without his parents’ blessings.
He was only 17.
A day after arriving in Cape Town, he had secured a job in a vineyard that gave him M125 for five days.
In 2001, a year later, he decided to leave for Queen’s Town where he stayed with relatives.
That’s when he only returned home to apologise to his parents for running away from school and going to Cape Town without their approval.
While in Queen’s Town, Mphephoka finished his high school.
By then he was active in the African Methodist church choir as well as the school choir.
In 2003 his father was retrenched from the mines and he quickly realised he had to fetch a job to fend for the family back home. Mphephoka decided to train as a security guard.
While waiting to be deployed, he received the call that was to change his life.
Tshilidzi Matoro, who owned a studio, wanted to give Mphephoka a chance.
He had never heard him sing but the two had only talked when they met while Mphephoka was selling cassettes and CDs on the streets of Queen’s Town.
“We only talked when I was in the streets selling cassettes and CDs for some of the local gospel singers, so his trust in me was a motivation,” Mphephoka told the Lesotho Times last week.
A few months later, Thandaza was to become a hit off Mphephoka’s debut album, Ke Ineha Uena.
Mphephoka did not have money to pay his studio fees thus he could not get full ownership of the album.
Then he met one of the local musicians, Francis Ntlhoki, who was with ‘Meko Phohleli on personal business.
Mphephoka gave his cassette to Phohleli who promised to market it over the radio where he worked as a presenter.
The people fell in love with it.
Seeing that the cassette was doing well, Mphephoka decided to return home in 2005.
Upon his return he immediately went to a circumcision school before going to Maseru to “try and find a life”.
The following year Mphephoka met Thabo Ntereke who would help by promoting his music and also assist financially.
Mphephoka’s efforts were rewarded when he won the “Fanelo Mqhathazane” award from MoAfrika FM, an accolade given based on listenership of all ages, religion and culture.
The year 2007 saw Mphephoka release Ke Tsába Moea, produced by Ntereke whose wife Makatiso and their daughter Ntséliseng were also involved.
A DVD was also produced.
Later in the year, Mphephoka won the Lesotho Haeso Music Award in the gospel category.
To add to the glory, he married his producer’s daughter Ntséliseng, now known as ‘Makamohelo Mphephoka, in January 2008.
“Whenever I visited Ntereke’s home, I would see this lovely lady and she would make me some food, well prepared and served on a tray,” Mphephoka recalled.
“I fell in love with her from the word go and I now had some endless business at the Nterekes.”
“For fear of messing my relationship with my financial controller, I decided to marry before somebody took her away from me. I was really in love,” he added while laughing.
It’s been a long journey for Mphephoka.
This year he won in gospel category at the Lesotho Haeso Music Awards before scooping overall accolade.
For now, it seems nothing will stop Mphephoka.