Tunesday: Maleh – You Make My Heart Go

I don’t really have aspirations to be famous in the celebrity sense of the word. I always thought that if I were to be famous, I’d be famous by association. I’d be one of those people whose quirky insight is featured in a memoir or a Vh1 special (do they still have those?), I’d love to be thanked in someone’s liner notes – that would be dope too. However, I never hope to be Jhonni Blaze famous by association famous – nu-uh!

My first Tunesday of the year (I’m slacking) is awarded to someone who I always tell that my claim to fame would be people knowing that I sang in choir with her in primary and high school (those anecdotes can feature on Vh1/MTV/Channel O specials – call me 😉 ). Undoubtedly, she is the MUCH better singer and person – one of the more affable people I know.

Maleh’s voice is so beautifully textured that it fits so well on easy tracks such as this one and the video compliments the light heartedness of the song as well. The video is also peppered with other people who I’ll famous by association claim, and alongside Maleh, they all make my heart go…..

Enjoy!

And my fellow countrymen, we are poor

“There’s one big difference between the poor and the rich”…
“No — the big difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich are blithe. They believe nothing can ever really be so bad… Their lives are the same for generations. There is no social upheaval that will really affect them. If you’re comfortably middle class, what’s the worst a government policy could do? Ever? Tax you at 90 percent and leave your bins un emptied on the pavement. But you and everyone you know will continue to drink wine — but maybe cheaper — go on holiday — but somewhere nearer — and pay off your mortgage —although maybe later.
Consider, now, the poor. What’s the worst a government policy can do to them?  It can cancel their operation, with no recourse to private care. It can run down their school— with no escape route to prep. It can have you out of your house and in a B&B by the end of the year. When the middle classes get passionate about politics, they’re arguing about their treats — their tax breaks and their investments. When the poor get passionate about politics, they’re fighting for their lives.” – Caitlin Moran vis John Kite in ‘How to Build a Girl’

I am going to be devout

But I don’t want to be noble and committed like most women in history were – which invariably seems to involve being burned at the stake, dying of sadness, or being bricked up in a tower by an earl. I don’t want to sacrifice myself for something. I don’t want to die for something. I don’t even want to walk in the rain up a hill in a skirt that’s sticking to my thighs for something. I want to live for something, instead – as men do.

Caitlin Moran – How To Build A Girl

Black Affluence: Setting Standards

To do things properly – this is the impetus of Black Affluence, the bi-annual hip hop event in Maseru.

Turning two this past December, Black Affluence was birthed out of a financial and social frustration. When co-founding member Litlatse “Katz” Phooko found himself in his dorm room, having spent his last few coins, the thought of coming home for the holidays penniless, loomed. So he devised a plan. He sent his friend and co-founder, Phoka “Dot” Lithebe, a few designs he had been working on to see what they could do with them to make some pocket change.

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The first event, The Urban Rebirth, was a marketing ploy for the T-shirts which came from Katz’s designs.  Several people attended the event accidentally.  Many, like myself,  stumbled upon the event because they were looking for something to do; and in the true spirit of December shenanigans, chose to go to the one spot they were sure to meet like-minded festive people. We entered Times Café, not knowing we were attending a Black Affluence event – we did not even know Black Affluence existed. However the sight of familiar faces and T-shirts on display indicated that the alcohol was not the only thing brewing at Times.

They met their objective – of selling the T-shirts – and there was a sense of belonging to those who had made the purchase. The limited edition shirts gave a sense of exclusivity to those who owned one, and envy for those who did not. As people enquired where they could go and purchase the shirts, stories from the party became part of the direction. To not be left out the next time, accompanied by a better marketing push, their second event, The Winter Warm Up, was well attended – exceeding the expectations of the organizers.

The difference in attendance between their first and second event is worth grass root campaigning case studies. The Black Affluence boys* did not coerce people to like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter – in fact a look at their social media numbers may induce scepticism, however, they punch well above their weight.

The event is a welcome change from the big open field events which dominate Maseru’s entertainment sphere. Because hosting events is not a very lucrative endeavour, most promoters vie to get the biggest bang for their buck. So they invite as many artists and DJs as they can afford, hire a large venue, and market to as many people as they can across the spectrum. Thus, you get events which “cater” to the whole family – unintentionally.

Black Affluence found a niche and unapologetically satisfies the needs of young adults who grew up on Hip-Hop and craved a gig to fill the void. In some ways Black Affluence became out of selfish desires. Black Affluence boys wanted to have all the night life privileges Maseru has to offer, but under their own terms. And they correctly thought that there are other people in the city who would enjoy it too.

The boys have not been without their share of difficulties though. Receiving financial support is an expected struggle which they have circumvented by staffing their own parties, right down to having their selection of in-house DJs. They partnered with a sponsor for an event, which did not prove to be as beneficial, but besides that instance, they ride solo.

The secluded nature of the event organizers has landed them in trouble from time to time. To some the group appear stand-offish and uncollaborative. The height of their tension with other groups in the country was when there was an alleged beef with some local rappers. The miscommunication came about when they had refused to allow the rappers to perform at their next gig. The tension grew when their squabble made it into a prominent local newspaper. When I asked them about this dispute, it became apparent that it stemmed from a slight arrogance on their part coupled with their desire to do things well. Arrogance was they did not feel that the artist were at the performance level they desired (which is not all together false). Moreover, they did not feel that they were at the point where they could stage suitably sounding live performances (which they are not opposed to doing in the future).

On the flip-side, their exclusivity also provides a sense of intimacy and familiarity to those who attend the event.  Black Affluence events are an opportunity to reunite over a few drinks, great music, and unabashed dancing. Each event a shared experience, one that is not truly explainable to those who did not attend – I have twice been on the receiving end of the inexplicable reminisce felt by attendees, sometimes having to be satisfied with an extended “yo” as a descriptor . The Black Affluence gigs are well-rounded experiences from their social media pushes, the actual events, and the pictures and videos which follow; there is a sense of being not only as an attendee, but a part of Black Affluence.

Having celebrated their second anniversary, and four events later, I had to ask what “Black Affluence” means to them. The simple answer is, it can mean whatever you wish it too. The mission, however, is to raise standards – of events, how people view themselves, and are treated – and one way to do so is to provide quality entertainment.  Personally, each member of Black Affluence is working towards achieving some milestone; and each use their respective skills to oil the machine. As they continue to take things to “The Next Level” with dreams of being the event in Lesotho which brings people from across the border, they continue to provide solid entertainment with the little that they have. That, is Black Affluence.

*Black Affluence members include: Katz, Dot, Bolae Machai, Neo Phasumane, Sekhoane Kolane, Seboka Phasumane, Hlompang Leduka, Bahlakoana Mosola, Lehlohonolo Khaebana, and  Mpho Monoko.

Tunesday: Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me

For the love of Jessie Ware, and a dedication to all of my law classes (especially Constitutional law)

Tunesday: James Vincent McMorrow – Cavalier

There isn’t much I can say but I cried listening to this on repeat last night.
When I heard another of his tracks on Majestic Casual’s youtube channel, I thought it was Sampha and was shocked to see the face behind the song.

Wow, this man, his voice and his melodies.

I thank the UK artists for continuing to put feeling into music – it’s much needed and appreciated

Stable Contradictions

Memories etched in falsehood, 
Happiness fraudulently expressed in the pulses of our veins.
Yet the sensation keeps us alive.
Gone are the attractions, 
But the repulsion is fortified in our togetherness
Stay. 

Curvatures curated by the fable of hope,
Only thin veils wrap the warmth of solitude.
Yet coldness does not return.
Gone are the joys,
But the anger is at bay from our fortress
Stay

Delicately birthed through concrete glass,
Sharp cuts taste sweet.
Yet engulfed in your freedom is stifled.
Gone are the frames of the mirrors, 
But the reflections tell stories bold, 
Stay

Outside views sun shines so pretty,
Harp strings play keys to the beat, 
Damaged clay is my surroundings.
Gone is the laughter to complete.

I don’t want to see your face around here, 
Go

Wrote this as a free write listening to Esthero – Gone
https://soundcloud.com/esthero/12-gone

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
– John Donne

Putting our Stamp On It

In today’s economy, with jobs as scarce as they are, and youth unemployment at an all-time high, it has become even more important to be entrepreneurial. Instead of seeking employment, we need to create our own. One venture that seems easy but isn’t as effortless as we had thought – based on how many endeavours that have come and gone –  is the T-shirt printing industry.

T-shirts have morphed from undergarments to central pieces worn by both genders; they also come in different styles: You can rock a plain white tee, spruce your outfit with a coloured tee, or make a statement with a printed tee.

Printed tees have become popular within the country, with several people and companies trying to make their mark in the industry. Besides corporates printing tees for promotional purposes, there are several brands that have cropped up to create and sell unique and impressionable printed tees. What makes our t-shirts unique is the fact that they are truly statement pieces – an attempt to unify Basotho around their Basothoness. We chat with two prominent Lesotho brands, Basutoland Ink and Mora Mosotho, to discuss the countries t-shirt printing industry, their struggles, how they see their brands growing, and the complexities of working in Lesotho.

Basutoland Ink is regarded as one of the pioneering printed t-shirt brands specializing in proudly Basotho wear. The brand began in 2006 when three friends (and business partners), Bokang Khekhe, Karabo Maitin and Tlotliso Setsomi had the idea to create t-shirts which showcase Lesotho’s vibrancy. One can say the idea began haphazardly. Basutoland Ink was born out of passion for Lesotho and an opportunity to fill a void. While students at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, “I saw a guy wearing a printed shirt that had ‘Lesotho’ across it and it did not look right. I did not want that to be the way people saw Lesotho.” Bokang explains, and thanks to the guy with a poorly printed shirt, the idea to create Lesotho inspired tees was born.

As avid basketball fans, the Basutoland Ink boys set out to sell their collection of basketball sneakers to raise the starting capital for their company. They raised about M4000, and with capital from Tlotliso Setsomi they raised enough money to print their first batch of tees.

Max Ramakatane of Mora Mosotho, also started his line from capital he raised himself. With earnings from his work as a DJ, event coordinator, and stake in Lighthouse Media, he was able to set aside enough money to design and print his line.

Mora Mosotho came about in 2011, when Moeketsi “Max” Ramakatane decided to create a line of clothing based on what he wanted to wear. The name derived from him combining the first two letters of his first and last name, Moeketsi Ramakatane, to form Mora, which conveniently spelled the Sesotho for “son”. Max is so known by his clothing moniker that it took me a while to figure out that “Mora” was not his legal surname. He, like the Basutoland Ink boys, is inspired by and passionate about his “Mosothoness”, hence him naming the line Mora Mosotho, “Mosotho’s Son”.  An epithet to him and all who wear his clothing.

Both groups expressed that people are generally discouraged from starting their own ventures because they do not have the initial capital, which is true all over the world. What makes the situation more difficult in Lesotho is the lack of support to acquire funding, either as start-up loans from banks, funds from ministerial departments, or corporate buy in. However, I have heard of, and seen companies begin with little to no money and flourish into viable businesses. The greater issue is the lack of support speared towards our entrepreneurial minded youth.

If it is not straight discouragement from their parents, friends and other acquaintances, it’s the lack of resources that hinders people’s efforts. A sentiment echoed by Karabo Maitin. He complained about the lack of structural support; lamenting on the fact that we do not have any incubation models to follow, organizations which encourage entrepreneurial thinking or a space to hash out ideas. Maitin wished for support that came in forms as easy as  monthly meeting spaces where people can share ideas, learn from each other, and find out what the relevant next steps are.

Another issue that many people have with starting a business in Lesotho is all of the red tape they have to go through in order to establish their company. Our country is very bureaucratic, which in itself is not an issue. The problem is that the departments and offices we have to visit in order to get ourselves off the ground are often not organized or efficient. At times it seems like an “I know, you know” situation which is highly discouraging, especially if you do not know “the right” people. Information is not readily available as to what we have to do in order to complete a task. We are sent to multiple offices to get what seems like arbitrary forms and signatures; we are then subjected to long waits and poor customer services; sometimes we get no service for something as trivial as someone having their lunch at their working station.

Complaints aside, it is equally necessary to have the correct paperwork and documents when you start your business as to minimize complications down the road. Especially in a creative industry like t-shirt printing, it is imperative to protect your brand so that no-one can steal your designs for their own profit. Mora Mosotho and Basutoland Ink are both registered companies and they expressed that it was a relatively easy process. For Basutoland Ink the process cost them approximately M3000, which included legal fees and the necessary fees for the Ministry of Trade and Commerce; the process took two to three months to get it all in order.

So what are the next steps for these clothing brands…

It is important to note that, although these two brands began by imprinting t-shirts, they have since expanded to hoodies, body warmers, and caps.

The deal between Basutoland Ink and the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) is relatively well known. They boys supply the national team with a fresh kit every game, and in turn they receive revenue from replica jersey’s sold; they also sponsor league winners Lioli, and hope to clothe more teams in due time.

I asked them how the deal came about, to which Bokang Kheke explained that they want Basutoland Ink to be for Lesotho what Pringle is for Scotland and Ralph Lauren, America. They want Basutoland Ink to be a national brand that can compete internationally. Through LeFA, they can bring their brand to new audiences, including those who may not connect to the t-shirts and sweatshirts they currently produce.  Maitin explained that “the national team is bigger than politics and creed.” We can, and should, all rally behind our national football team regardless of our political leaning. They hope to sponsor more teams in the future to broaden their reach. This year they are also expanding their offerings with a line of Basutoland Ink beanies for the first time.

Mora Mosotho, now in its second year of existence, has expanded the number of places where people can get their clothing from. The brand is available from Max at Lighthouse Media, Turning Point Lifestyle in Pioneer Mall, and Montana’s Boutique at the upper level of Victoria Hotel stores. At the time of our interview he had expressed that all of his stock was sold out, a statement I believed based on how many Mora Mosotho clad people I had seen that week. The exciting news was, including the new stock and styles he was in the process of ordering, he has plans on opening his own store in Pioneer Mall in the future, the brand also wishes to go into dresses and shoes.

Both Basutoland Ink and Mora Mosotho have  had requests from people in America and the UK  interested in their clothes, although Max did not seem completely sold on the idea, he may start selling online too. His trepidation came because he believes that his line has become bigger than what he had initially anticipated – I told him that is a luxury problem.

When Basutoland Ink began, they received a lot of backlash at the pricing of their garments, but they were adamant that they wanted quality product, and quality comes at a price. Both of them, regarded as higher end clothing brands, started off at a loss, not because people were not interested in their apparel, but because they had “sold” their product on credit. A credit they oftentimes never got back. The two have expressed that the t-shirt printing industry is not as lucrative as people believe. Those looking for a quick buck will be highly disappointed. In order to have any form of success, hard work is the key ingredient. Mora Mosotho and Basutoland Ink are riding high right now because of the extreme efforts and passion they have put behind their projects. Admittedly it is still not smooth sailing, as there are many inroads these two still have to make. They are still working really hard to solidify their mark in the country, and in Basutoland Ink’s case, the continent.

Only time will tell how far both brands will grow. However their dedication to their respective labels, and inner camaraderie, will assist them in the long run. It is only fair that we support our local start-ups to ensure their success and to inspire other ventures in the future.

Jayy Perry – Muses

I’m back in school, and that means I now have more time to procrastinate. This time I justify my procrastination by supporting a person whose voice I first heard singing accapella during our undergraduate years – Jayy Perry (that was not her name in college)

The first time I really paid attention to Jayy was after she was featured in our college’s newspaper. She spoke on being approached by major labels at a young age but that it was not the right time or fit, and that she wanted to focus on going to college first. I was interested to hear what this young woman had to offer, so I scoured her YouTube videos, and ever since I have watched countless videos – and witnessed her hair transformation through the site.

I never doubted that she was talented, and I was at awe of her quick ability to rearrange songs to fit her vocals and slight rearrangements of melodies, especially of Drake songs – which is one of her favorite artists to cover. In one of her covers she justified doing an Aaliyah cover because she was told that she resembles and sounds like the late singer. A realization I heard while listening to her new mixtape – Muses – which prompted me to come back to writing about music.

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 Jayy Perry
Muses
(2014)
Favorite Track: Cant Help Myself and Finished

I follow Jayy Perry on twitter and kept reading about her studio visits with Kashbeats, her babysitting anecdotes, and finally, a link to a song – Wild. I was impressed by her prior musical effort “Speeding” and was hoping that Wild would also slay, and slay it does. In all honesty, all 7 tracks on this mixtape are sonically satiating.

The feel of the mixtape is more smooth laid back beats, obviously influenced by this new stoner R&B sound with sensual lyrics. At first listen I wanted to compare her to Jhene Aiko, but I thought that unfair, Muses has some added umph that is a little more – for lack of better vocabulary –  zestier. However, I had a sudden Ah-ha moment when “Something (Interlude) came one and suddenly reminded me of “Can I Come Over” Aaliyah, and I was like “Yaaaasss”

Not to make this post about Drake, but he says he connects to Aaliyah’s music because of its melody and lyrics that guys feel comfortable singing to. I feel that similarly, Jayy Perry’s Muse has similar musical riffs to both artists, and the unisex lyrics (not forgetting the lesbihonesty lyrics) can resonate with anyone.

If you enjoy music to smoke a blunt to, over a glass of wine, or just to vibe to, I would definitely recommend you download Muse, ASAP – no Rocky

http://jayyperry.bandcamp.com/