LETOFE hon­ours jazz muso Leepa

Lesotho Times - - Weekender - Mo­halenyane Phakela

THE fam­ily of the late Afro Jazz pi­o­neer, Frank Leepa, have ex­pressed their joy over the Le­sotho Tourism Fes­ti­val’s (LETOFE) de­ci­sion to hold its 12th edi­tion in his hon­our.

The world-fa­mous LETOFE will be held on 23 De­cem­ber in Thaba Bo­siu and a South African con­tin­gent in­clud­ing the likes of Hugh Masekela, Sipho ‘Hot­stix’ Mabuse, Ringo, Vusi Nova and The Soil are all ex­pected to grace the event.

They will be shar­ing the stage with lo­cals such as Se­limo Tha­bane, Kom­manda Obbs, JC Crew, Mys­tic Mar­gin as well as Sanko­mota- the band that gave Leepa fame in the 1980s and 1990s.

Leepa’s sis­ter, Mpho, this week told the Week­ender of the fam­ily’s grat­i­tude to the LETOFE or­gan­is­ers for recog­nis­ing her brother’s con­tri­bu­tion to the mu­sic in­dus­try.

“We felt hum­bled when the LETOFE or­gan­is­ers ap­proached the fam­ily ask­ing to cel­e­brate Frank through this year’s fes­ti­val,” Mpho said.

“We re­gard Frank as a na­tional trea­sure who worked very hard to put Le­sotho’s mu­sic on the map dur­ing times when it was dif­fi­cult to earn a liv­ing through mu­sic al­though his ef­forts were never recog­nised.

“When he passed away in Novem­ber 2003, politi­cians promised to build record­ing stu­dios in his hon­our but that never ma­te­ri­alised, mak­ing this fes­ti­val the first to cel­e­brate his tal­ent.”

She said that Frank was born a mu­si­cian and when he was a baby, they kept him from cry­ing by plac­ing him next to a ra­dio play­ing mu­sic.

“When he was nine years old at a time when other chil­dren played fam­ily games, Frank played a mu­si­cian. He made him­self a gui­tar from an old oil tin, a plank and strings which he played to other kids, im­i­tat­ing songs he had heard on ra­dio.

“While at pri­mary school in Mapoteng (Berea dis­trict) there were acous­tic gui­tars at the school and Frank asked for lessons from his brother Charles who was al­ready a stu­dent play­ing an acous­tic gui­tar.

“I can­not re­mem­ber the ex­act years, but he then joined the school band while in Form A at Christ the King High School in Roma. He put less ef­fort in his school work and he was ex­pelled af­ter fail­ing. Our fa­ther then took him to ‘Ma­bathoana High School in Maseru but he con­tin­ued to fo­cus on mu­sic and he would al­ways get a beat­ing from our fa­ther for poor per­for­mance in his stud­ies but that never changed his love for mu­sic.”

She said he dropped out of school while in Form B af­ter their fa­ther passed on as there was no longer any­one forc­ing him to go to school. Frank told the fam­ily that he would now fo­cus on earn a liv­ing out of mu­sic.

He started Anti An­tiques band in the early 1970s but it only started to achieve fame in 1975 when it was re-named Uhuru. He was the gui­tarist, vo­cal­ist, ar­ranger and com­poser while other mem­bers were Moss Nkofu (drum­mer), Black Je­sus (per­cus­sion), Moruti Se­late, Tšepo Tšola (lead vo­cal­ist, com­poser) and Pitso Sera (gui­tar).

They first re­leased their de­but self-ti­tled al­bum in 1983 fol­lowed by Writ­ing on the Wall in 1989. In 1991 they re­leased two al­bums, Ex­plo­ration - A New Phase and Dreams Do Come True. They fol­lowed this up with Af­ter the Storm in 1993 and Frankly Speak­ing was the last re­lease in 2001 as Frank died two years later.

The Best of Sanko­mota 1981 to 1991: Great­est Hits and the Best of Tšepo Tšola & Sanko­mota soon fol­lowed and they have kept the spirit of Sanko­mota alive.

“The Anti An­tiques used to prac­tise at Qoal­ing play­ing Mbaqanga as well as cover ver­sions of Amer­i­can R&b/soul singer Percy Sledge and their buzz was felt across the coun­try.

Tšepo Tšola ini­tially played for an­other band the Blue Di­a­monds be­fore join­ing the Anti An­tiques.

“They then mi­grated to South Africa to grow their brand, re­nam­ing the band Uhuru (Free­dom), but they never stood the test of time as they were soon banned as Uhuru was un­der­stood by the Apartheid govern­ment to mean lib­er­a­tion of the blacks.

“Frank never gave up and re­named the band Sanko­mota and man­aged to record their de­but al­bum in the early 80s which was their ca­reer break. They suf­fered a car ac­ci­dent in 1995, killing four mem­bers while trav­el­ling from Jo­han­nes­burg to Cape Town where they had a gig. That was a huge set back which af­fected Frank,” Mpho said.

Al­though Frank re-es­tab­lished the band in the late 1990s he re­lied mostly on ses­sion mu­si­cians. He died on 27 Novem­ber 2003 while pre­par­ing for a fes­ti­val which was held the fol­low­ing month on 20 De­cem­ber in Maseru.

AFRO Jazz pi­o­neer Frank Leepa.

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