My dream for Lesotho

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WHEN one turns to the entertainment section of one’s favourite newspaper you find half a page focused on the latest artist to release an album.
There is a picture of the musician performing followed by half a paragraph on the artist.
Then you switch on the radio and a presenter excitedly tells listeners that the next song is by one of our local sensations.
The disc jockey begins playing the music and popularises it.
Before you know it, the songs are being played in taxis and at parties.
At this point, we all assume the artist is now well known and we assume he has virtually achieved fame.
The artist receives lots of pats on the back from genuine fans who appreciate the immense efforts that he put in compiling the album.
Music is a reflection of a people’s environment and society.
Basotho are a highly patriotic people.
They are passionate about their music.
We love famo music, gospel and hip hop.
But take a trip down to a local music retailer. One would be lucky to find local albums on sale.
Music retailers are more likely to mention all the artists from neighbouring South Africa and the United States.
This could be attributed to the massive marketing these international acts receive through music videos and endorsements.
I have also observed that there is no shortage of musical shows in Maseru.
However, there seems to be greater hype and activity when foreign artists perform in Maseru.
Often these events have big sponsors and charge an arm and a leg — usually between M100 and M200 per ticket — and sell out.
The main performers often arrive late and heavily intoxicated.
In contrast, a local line-up often struggles to sell a hundred tickets at between M50 and M100 per ticket even though these local artists give committed performances during their shows.
As Basotho, we need to interrogate this unfortunate situation in the arts industry.
Are we doing enough as Basotho to elevate our arts and empower bana ba rona (our children).
What do we have to do to promote local artists?
There are no easy and clear answers to these questions.
But for us to do so, we need to start understanding our artists.
We need to be informed about our local talent and celebrate these individuals.
Sadly, we are more glued to Khanyisile Mbau and Skwatta Kamp.
How many of us are aware that our very own Krt produced the theme song for the 2009 Confederations Cup held in neighbouring South Africa?
We need to value our local arts.
We need to appreciate the immense challenges facing our artists.
There are lots of artists who want to record their music but fail to do so because of lack of funds.
Some of the most memorable songs by local artists were recorded across the border.
But the unfortunate thing is that some artists do not get any royalties because South African labels own the rights.
The reality is that we do not have a functional music industry to speak of in Lesotho.
How is an industry that is so profitable failing to contribute to our economy?
We need to build proper structures for the arts and actively support the development of the local music industry.
Basotho must work together to achieve this goal.
Our local music marketing executives and promoters need to attend shows to appreciate what is popular on the local arts scene.
They can therefore be able to contract artists who are relevant and present line-ups that ensure regular attendance at shows.
The media also need to be responsible in the manner they report and distribute content about individuals who lead this sector.
Most importantly we as the consumers need to adopt a culture of paying for quality products. More people need to stop expecting discounts or even freebies.
Although the focus here is music, this sentiment applies to all local products.
When will it fill one with pride to be in Lesotho, wearing a Basutoland Ink T-shirt, drinking a locally produced beverage while being entertained by a host of Basotho artists at a big local festival? From where I stand, it really is up to us.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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