I first published the Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes in 2015, and it was launched with a limited edition CD-Rom at Clarke’s Bookshop, Cape Town, in May 2015. The Southern African Society for Research In Music (SASRIM) then asked if they could reprint the Edition and a revised version appeared with the 2016/2017 issue of the Society’s journal, SAMUS: Southern African Music Studies, together with an interview with Grant Olwage (Lucia 2016/2017a), a discussion about translating Mohapeloa’s texts (Lucia 2016/2017b, reprinted in herri #3), and my ‘General Introduction’ to the Edition (Lucia 2016/2017c). The present essay – a ‘critical reflection’ on making this Edition – was also intended for that volume, but has remained unpublished until now. I still feel very close to Mohapeloa’s work, as researcher, typesetter, editor, formatter, producer, publisher, and vendor, Everything but the translator of the song texts, which were expertly translated by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse and Mpho Ndebele. The names of many other people who assisted with the edition in small and large ways are listed in the Acknowledgments, including peer reviewers James Grier and Roger Parker. despite the sense of distance gained over time and by working on the more recent Moerane Critical Edition. The Andrew Mellon-M.M. Moerane Critical Edition in Four Volumes was published in 2020 (Moerane 2020;). In looking back over this essay, however, there is little I would change, and I begin, as I did then, by posing three questions:
1. How do we read this edition, at this historical juncture?
2. What kind of phenomenon is it?
3. Where does it belong?
How do we read the Mohapeloa Critical Edition, at this historical juncture?
In October 2015, a few months after the edition was launched, South African students ‘stormed the hallowed grounds of Parliament, Luthuli House and the Union Buildings’ (Corina 2015) during a week described by Achille Mbembe (2015) as a ‘pre-revolutionary moment’ in South Africa’s history. Triggered by ‘yet another routine increase of tuition fees’ (Ibid), the student ‘#FeesMustFall’ movement escalated, shocking South African academia out of its comfort zones. The movement was violent, but this violence intersected with other violent South African protests in recent years against poor service delivery, corruption, and poverty. The plight of students, the working class, and an increasingly large number of middle-class people is a historical phenomenon attributable to South Africa’s abysmal economy, which makes paying for higher education (among other things) ‘an absurd debt-trap’ (Mbembe Ibid).
The economy of southern Africa may be a strange ‘way in’ to this edition, but it is crucial both to its conception and to its future as a product.What I say in this essay, written in 2016, applies no less to the present day. This economy is caught up in a wheel of globally arrested economic development, linked to what American economist Joseph Stiglitz (2015, 11) has called ‘the increasing financialization of the world’s economies’ which has gone hand in hand with ‘the growth of inequality’(2015,11). Sarah Evans reported on one local consequence of this finance-driven inequality in the Mail & Guardian: ‘Out of 151 countries’ surveyed by Global Financial Integrity in December 2014,’ she notes, ‘South Africa loses, on average … R147-billion per year to the illegal movement of money out of the country (Evans 2014); indeed, between 2003 and 2012, ‘Sub-Saharan Africa had the biggest amount of illegal financial outflows as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 5.5%’ (Evans Ibid). This is borne out by what French economist Thomas Picketty said in 2016 (170): an ‘estimated 30 to 50 percent of the [African] continent’s financial assets are held in tax havens’; These statistics were confirmed by the ‘Panama papers’ that first exposed information in May 2016 about multiple countries’ involvement in off-shoring, including South Africa (Shane 2016). Africa clearly needs, he added, ‘an international legal system that can protect it from permanent pillage’ (Picketty Ibid). Stiglitz (2015, 67) also argues for ‘better global oversight’ as ‘the global economy becomes more interconnected’. This economic crunch, for most of us, and this vast fiscal oppotunity for a few, is the historical juncture at which the Mohapeloa critical edition first appeared in 2015, after a gestation period of almost 10 years: a moment when most of southern Africa was suffering austerity measures caused by major global economic flows and when a few wealthy South Africans were off-shoring enough money to solve the student fees crisis annually (Evans 2014).
My research for this edition was from the outset motivated by an acute awareness of money, or lack of it. Mohapeloa comes from one of the poorest countries in the world, Lesotho. I funded the production of the edition myself at a loss, and it does not attract research subsidy.I never submitted this edition for research subsidy, knowing full well that it was not a ‘weighted research output’ (Higher Education and Training 2015, 9). The only outcomes recognised as ‘research’ by the DoE are articles in journals, sole-authored books or book chapters, and papers in peer-reviewed conference proceedings. Edited work is not recognised as scholarly work because one is not the ‘originator’ of the work. Economically, then, one can read this edition as a gigantic financial risk.
When I began researching ‘Ntate’ Mohapeloa in 2006, one of the first things I wanted to do was see where he was buried, so that I could pay my respects to this great composer of southern Africa. With the help of his grandson, Mohapeloane, I found Dr. J.P. Mohapeloa’s grave, in his home village of Morija:
Just prior to this, I had interviewed Mohapeloa’s daughter-in-law Mrs. Joyce Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa, who held the copyright over his music, and she told me how she had tried in vain to pay for a suitable memorial (Joyce Mohapeloa 2006).Sadly, Mrs Mohapeloa passed away on 23 December 2018. She was so helpful and supportive throughout my research and I am glad that she lived to see the publication. People in Lesotho do sometimes erect tombstones long after a person’s death: the unveiling (as it is called) of the tombstone of another composer, M.M. Moerane in Hlotse, for example, happened eight years after he died (M.T. Moerane, 1988). But the lack of a physical memorial to Mohapeloa 24 years on, reinforced my sense, which grew stronger over subsequent visits to Lesotho, of an enormous disconnect between the economic circumstances of the community and country in which Mohapeloa had lived and worked, and both the limited field of professional composition in southern Africa with its in-fighting and racialized dynamics,For more on this, see Lucia 2005a. and the lavish marketing game that African choralism has become, with its national media coverage, vast sums spent on transport and image, and sponsorship by the corporate business world (Old Mutual Music 2016).
The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) helped the family to erect a tomb, in 2011. It now looks like this:
On the headstone is inscribed: ‘Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa – Motsoali ea Khabane Robala ka Khotso’ [A parent who is honourable,‘Khabane’ also means righteous, fine or virtuous. rest in peace]; and on the gravestone: ‘O Qapile Pina E Monate Motaung Oa Maloisane A Re Siela Meloli Le Lithallere Mona Afrika Le Mane’ [He composed a beautiful/sweet song, this Motaung of Maloisane, he left us sounds and songs here in Africa and over there]. I am grateful to Mrs Mpho Ndebele for the translation of these inscriptions.
For many southern African choristers, Mohapeloa’s ‘beautiful, sweet song’ is his monument. But this song is intellectual property; it is not in the public domain. However, precariously many African choralists live and however much his music is cherished by them as cultural capital, all music in the African choral tradition constitutes someone’s livelihood, as economic capital. It was created as intellectual work and the product is intellectual property. This reality is a given in many countries in the (so-called) developed world, where intellectual piracy is well regulated, but it is not a strong concept in southern Africa, where ignorance about music copyright is still widespread. An example of this is the low number of performance venues (not restaurants) licensed to SAMRO, although SAMRO’s website makes it very clear who needs to apply for a license.Information for users can be viewed here. Reporting forms can be viewed here The complex reporting forms SAMRO supplies for various kinds of works performed live at various kinds of venues, contributes, in my view, to the fact that the majority of choral performances are not reported for royalty purposes. This is however a speculation at this stage, based on the number of licensed venues SAMRO publishes on its website (Samro Licensed Venues 2016).
Adding to the difficulties of implementing licensing rules and royalty collection, there has existed for decades in southern Africa a sense of entitlement about song. Song binds us together, makes us African, celebrates our liberty, is quintessentially communal, belongs to all. ‘Mohapeloa left us song everywhere’, is even engraved on Mohapeloa’s tombstone, and today’s social media and Internet sites make it seem ever more ‘freely’ available. Someone has posted on Youtube, for example, The Wits Choir singing his ‘U Ea Kae?’ without crediting either composer or work (Youtube 2011).
The SABC Choir’s beautiful Youtube performance of the same song (Youtube 2015) does credit both composer and work – the song as ‘Uea Kae’ – but the CD that this performance promotes, the 2014 Journey of the SABC Choir, then erases the title, which becomes ‘track 13’, on sale for R7.99. Such ‘license’ is widespread, and it constituted a real problem for rights holder Mrs Mohapeloa, a retired nurse, who when I knew her could no longer afford to put petrol in her car or fix up her house. These are small examples among many in a climate of increasing ‘financialization of the world’s economies and the growth of inequality’, which contribute to my present economic reading of this edition, which developed after I returned from Lesotho in 2006 and began transcribing scores, because that historical moment coincided with the global economic downturn. This was led by the United States of America, which created the 2007-8 crash, ending in what Stiglitz has called ‘the Great Recession’ (2015, xi). What happened in the United States was pre-empted by a huge consumption binge in the 1990s and early 2000s, and irrevocable damage was done by the proliferation of sub-prime mortgages (5), as everyone knows. But unscrupulous bankers, financiers or politicians were not imprisoned, nor were finance houses severely regulated thereafter. Instead, ‘more than 14 million homes were foreclosed from 2007 to 2013’ (14). Millions of other foreclosures followed, worldwide, tens of thousands of them in southern Africa. Then, ‘thanks to globalization’, Wall Street could ‘sell off its toxic mortgages around the world’ (63) where they were invested ‘in portfolios in Europe, China, and Australia … Indonesia’ (36) and Africa; and the decline deepened when ‘investors pulled money out of these emerging markets, looking for safer havens’ (37). This created the perfect climate for closet off-shoring, which continues.
All of this had dire consequences for the economy of South Africa but even more so for Lesotho. A kingdom of 2 million people, independent from Britain since 1966 and with a land mass of 30 355 kms (Nations Online 2016), situated between the Orange and Caledon rivers and the highest mountain range in southern Africa, this tiny country of Mohapeloa’s, which features so richly in song after song of the critical edition, has its own constant refrain of poverty. The country has always been too small to sustain a subsistence farming economy: a case of ‘animal husbandry on eroded land’ as historian David Chanaiwa puts it (Chanaiwa 1999, 253). The amount of food-producing area per person continually shrinks, because of soil erosion: 0.41 hectares per person in 1961 it was down to 0.12 hectares by 2010 (The World Bank 2016a). Mohapeloa addresses this problem directly in his 1976 song, ‘Lesotho ’M’a Basotho’ [Lesotho, Mother of the Basotho], the sixth work in Volume IV of this edition.
Mohapeloa’s lyrics, in Sesotho, are translated phoneme-by-phoneme by Mantoa Motinyane Smouse (on the left, below) and her poetic translation (right) is edited by Mpho Ndebele. (This way of presenting lyrics is used throughout the edition.) Mohapeloa’s two-verse poem addresses the land as an abused woman:
Text of ‘Lesotho ’M’aThis is an abbreviation and elision of ‘mmè’ [mother] and ‘ea’ [of]. Basotho’ [Lesotho, Mother of the Basotho] by J.P. Mohapeloa
Successive Lesotho governments have been unable to sustain the nurture of their ‘blood of life’ as a united Basotho. The country today has almost the lowest Gross National Income (GNI) per person in the world – $1 330 in 2014 (The World Bank 2016b; South Africa’s GNI per capita is $6 800) – the average Basotho lives on less than R50 a day, in short – and unemployment is at 25.3% (Trading Economics 2015). Lesotho is also, however, no. 61 in the world corruption rankings out of 175 countries (Transparency International 2015; on a par with South Africa and Italy), and has had a history of internal strife and government repression since Independence (Tweedie 2015; see also Rosenberg and Wiesfelder 2013, 179 and 473). It is landlocked by and economically dependent on, South Africa, to whom it has for decades supplied migrant labour for the mining industry.
Lesotho’s political economy is built on inequalities of power going back to ‘between 1854 and 1869’, in fact, when ‘Lesotho lost more than half of its arable land’ to the Orange Free State (Gill 1997, 108). Historian David Chanaiwa, noting the ‘interplay between economy, strategy and race in the fate of Southern Africa’ (1999, 249), shows that the economic domain in the nineteenth century in this region was ‘land, especially the struggle for the best and most fertile land’ (251), and that in the twentieth century ‘the overriding issue was the European struggle to maintain economic monopoly over land, minerals, jobs and social services, and to repress African competition and nationalism’ (Ibid).
Turning to the economic scenario for South Africa: this is not as good as it should be, either, considering how much larger and better resourced it is than Lesotho. After 26 years, the ANC government has still ‘not reduced the vast inequality in living standards and substantive rights’ of its citizens (Picketty 2016, 168; his emphasis); while ‘the vast gap between the top 10 percent (who remain overwhelmingly white) and the bottom 90 percent has widened further since the end of apartheid’ (Ibid). This debilitating gap, referred to by Stiglitz as The Great Divide (2015), is an economic separation between the 1% super-rich and the 99% rest of the world, resulting directly from the 2007-8 crash. It epitomises the plight of the ‘born-free’ student generation in South Africa, and is the reason why the Mohapeloa Critical Edition has pitched itself decisively, at this historical juncture, as a commercial as well as scholarly edition. It is published on a website, african-composers-edition, where you have to pay for more than one-page samples or short sound bytes. Conceived during the global financial collapse of 2007-8 and born during the South African campus wars of 2015, the edition is impelled to justify itself as economic capital, within an intersecting political economy of choral practice, national inequality, Lesotho’s poverty, and university-based research.
I was even more acutely aware of the potential economic dilemma of the edition as a product when it neared completion in 2012, and I resolved to publish it myself and involve the Mohapeloa family directly in the profits. I set up the imprint African Composers Edition in 2012 and in consultation with SAMRO, drew up an agreement with the family (Mrs Mohapeloa and her son, Joshuoa Pulumo), giving them a percentage of sales. The edition eventually ran to ‘2 650 pages, much of it in 8-point (or even smaller) typeface’, as David Ambrose pointed out in a review (Ambrose 2016). The typeface was enlarged for the revised SAMUS CD-Rom Edition (2016/2017), which runs to well over 3 000 pages, its length largely due to the additional tonic solfa versions of every score.
The edition made a loss of circa R30 000 between 2012 and 2016, partly because income from sales did not cover web-publishing expenses. An initial loss is normal in publishing, and means that authors often have to wait for their royalties until sales begin to cover production; but, conscious of everything I have said in this section so far, I paid the family from pre-profit sales from the outset. This peculiar arrangement lies outside the political economy of African choral music and the political economy of university research, but I felt I had to do it, at this historical juncture. ‘It is most pleasing to know that the Mohapeloa story continues to be told as exemplified by your trip to Lesotho’, Pulumo Mohapeloa wrote to me in 2012 after I had given a paper on Mohapeloa in Morija (Mohapeloa, Joshuoa Pulumo 2012). ‘“Yet None with Truer Fervour Sing”: Mohapeloa, Empire, and Lesotho’, delivered at the Eugène Casalis Symposium, National University of Lesotho, 29-31 October 2012 (later published as Lucia 2017; the paper centres around his song, ‘Coronation March’) and how he transformed it into ‘Lesotho Lefa la Rōna’ (https://african-composers-edition.co.za/work/lesotho-lefa-la-rona/). ‘Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for continuing to implant his footprints within the sands of time’ (Ibid). This gracious reply, typical of all my dealings with the family, glosses over the edition’s commercial vulnerability and elevates the scholarship behind it as an exercise in the telling of history. Indeed, the family’s grasp of the significance of this edition as research stands in sharp contrast to the way it is regarded by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training.See endnote vi.
What kind of phenomenon is this edition?
What is it, then? A historical view: it is the first complete edition of any music in southern Africa. It is the first edition of an unaccompanied choral repertoire in a major genre of African composition that dates back to John Knox Bokwe’s 1875 Msindisi Wa Boni [Saviours of sinners] (Olwage 2010/11, 18). It represents only a fraction of that genre, to which at least 500 composers have contributed since Bokwe, as Yvonne Huskisson’s surveys of ‘Bantu Composers’ have shown (1969 and 1982). A publishing view: the edition renders more concrete and visible a segment of the genre known only patchily until now and subjects that segment to serious critical scrutiny. An editorial view: it invites us to look carefully at every note, rest, letter, and punctuation mark, for signs of ‘authenticity’. A musicological view, as given in the ‘General Preface’: it is ‘a modern African choral idiom in tonic solfa score [composed] between the 1920s and 70s, inspired by traditional Basotho music, jazz, Western classical music, and hymns’ (Lucia 2016, ii).
As a phenomenon, the edition counters a tendency in the music Academy in South Africa to see this music for what it is not, rather than for what it is, a dismissive view that I have critiqued elsewhere (Lucia 2011b, 63-66 and 2014, 222-3), because in such a view it is seen as ‘minor’ in relation to the ‘major’ tradition of Western music. Chris van Rhyn has invoked Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of a ‘minor literature … that which a minority constructs within a major language’ (Deleuze and Guattari in van Rhyn 2013, 244) in relation to a similar body of music, African solo art song. He applies this notion to the musical analysis of what he calls ‘minority constructions’ in the composition, meaning unconventionalities in African works written ‘in the margins’ of a major Western tradition of common-practice harmony (246).
Mohapeloa, black African and mission-trained in poverty-stricken Basutoland, was keenly aware of his lack of advanced harmonic knowledge: ‘my part-writing could not be in keeping’ with ‘Harmony according to Western conventions’ (Mohapeloa 1964), as he put it. But he never intended only to write in someone else’s major language, for his songs were written, he says, ‘to serve largely as a model of Africanization in music in that both the imitative and the creative aspects in composing are directed towards indigenous material for self-expression’ (Ibid). Neither Mohapeloa’s works nor his use of harmony are ‘minor’, it seems to me, in the sense that van Rhyn seems to suggest or that Deleuze and Guattari meant when speaking about Kafka as a Jew writing in ‘Prague German’, a ‘deterritorialized language appropriate for strange and minor uses’ similar to the uses put by the English language by ‘blacks in America today’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1986, 17).
Mohapeloa was not writing in a place and a language he did not belong to, nor was his language deterritorialized or used ‘strangely’, in my view, and so I cannot see this as work written from the margins. On the other hand, and to invoke Frantz Fanon (2008, 97), it cannot afford to be seen as ‘major’ simply on account of its blackness. For the critical edition as a phenomenon potentially thrusts Mohapeloa’s work into the vicious circle of being noticed precisely because it is the work of an African composer, and of thus being valued irrationally because it is black music. Fanon’s example of this double bind is the black physician. ‘Our physician’s black. He’s very gentle’ (Fanon 2008, 96).
I was becoming a nervous wreck, shaking at the slightest alert. I knew for instance that if the physician made one false move, it was over for him and for all those who came after him … As long as everything was going smoothly, he was praised to the high heavens; but watch out – there was no room whatsoever for any mistake (Ibid 97).
This critical edition shares that trepidation. It is no doubt full of mistakes, being the first of its kind and made by a (white) editor learning on the job. It shows how Mohapeloa substantially consolidated an emerging tradition, but, being ‘the black composer nipping at the heels of white normativity’ (Lucia 2014, 222), he always needs to watch out. All the more reason, then, because the edition presents a new phenomenon in Africa which, just as Christianity did for Fanon (2008, 75) ‘requires us to be inclined, to be prepared, and demands a new state of mind’, for readers of herrito judge the edition impartially. As a phenomenon, it has to be studied as an empirical object. It is not an empirical study of something, it is that ‘thing’. If the edition is studied for what it is rather than what it is not, and seen as the ‘first of a series’ (there will be others: Moerane is in the pipeline), it may be better able to defend itself. But there is undoubtedly an element in the making of this edition that, like Fanon (Ibid 98), ‘want[s] to rationalize the world and show the white man he was mistaken’.
Here lies another paradox. This edition has emerged from the rational world of a long line of historical editions abroad, and as a digital edition from a shorter but growing contemporary line of online critical editions. It aspires to such dizzy heights as the Online Chopin Variorum Edition (2015), The Gershwin Initiative (University of Michigan 2013), and the Digital Mozart Edition (NMA Online 2006ff). But just as the Mohapeloa Critical Edition frees a certain kind of music from slavery, as it were, it potentially enters another. ‘I moved forward. Too late. Everything had been predicted, discovered, proved, and exploited. My shaky hands grasped at nothing; the resources had been exhausted. Too late!’ (Fanon 2008, 100). The goalposts have moved in musicology, even in South Africa. They have moved decisively beyond positivism, beyond empiricism, ‘beyond text’, to a place where music is not a text but a performative phenomenon, ‘tones-in-motion’ (MusicExperiment21 2016). Scores, and score study, and 3 000-page critical editions, segue us backwards into an arcane past, where they anomalously reaffirm the superiority of Text over Act (Taruskin 1995). The musicological move towards performativity in the 2000s shifted decades of sedimented views of music as museum object (Goehr 1992) and work (Talbot 2000), and moved historical and analytical musicology closer to performance than they have ever been.
This paradox, of an apparently positivist 6-volume set of ‘works’ arriving on the performativity scene is offset, I suggest, by the very thing that has occluded these works as works thus far: the performing tradition from which they come, African choralism, which has never distinguished between work and performance. Mohapeloa’s work has always been transmitted through a sustained performativity in which scores as texts, unless they were prescribed for a while in Lesotho’s schools (which they were; Pitso 2014), have played a fleeting role, as I point out in the ‘General Introduction’, between two performative acts: the composer imagining the music before committing it to paper and conductors teaching it by rote to choirs.
Mohapeloa valued his music as scores and published the majority of them; indeed, the early editions were reprinted several times. Nowadays, those original scores are barely used, because copies (sometimes handwritten) have superseded them. African choralism has revolved around the specific functions of education, faith, festivals, and competitions rather than around the idea of performing works, and since the generation after Bokwe, works have always been ‘tones-in-motion’ – indeed the concept of the ‘work’ is almost non-existent in the musicological (or legal) sense. The music in this edition has never been studied and pored over by its practitioners. For decades, it has been learnt by rote from copies of copies, becoming, in the making, exactly what today’s northern musicologists are seeing musical texts as: ‘a complex articulation of different types of data, information and knowledge, retraceable in diverse material sources … in reflective discourses … and in multifarious performance “styles” (derived from, or originating in specific embodied understandings)’ (MusicExperiment21 2016).
The Mohapeloa edition is a reverse kind of liberation: it shows that whole repertoire by African composers exist, even though they have never before been assembled as works. It offers practitioners long primed to see musical texts as ‘tones-in-motion’ some concrete, sedimented, evidence of what they have always known, of where they have always been ‘coming from’. It gives them something to pore over, to use in the teaching of African (music) history, or to compare with versions of the score they already know. It is both similar in structure to, then, and entirely different in function and origin from, critical editions elsewhere.
What kind of phenomenon it is as a newly historicised and textualised African repertoire becomes clearer if one compares it to another African repertoire, Hugh Tracey’s Sound of Africa and Music of Africa series held at the International Library of African Music (ILAM). Both are archives, but the record Mohapeloa preserves through composition is different in kind and in purpose from the audio record of African music performance that Hugh Tracey began making at the same time, in the 1930s. That, too, was intended as a resource ‘for future generations’ (Thram 2010), but although the ILAM series constitutes a valuable archive of snapshots from distinct places, times, and people, Tracey’s culling of examples was very different from Mohapeloa’s, because Mohapeloa grew up with the traditional songs he initially drew upon (this is especially noticeable in Volumes I and II of the edition), while Tracey was mapping a much wider area of samples of music he appreciated but did not ‘grow up’ with in the same way. Mohapeloa, moreover, was ‘composing’ his archive rather than freezing time bytes, not engaged in the kind of ‘dance with difference’, as Paulette Coetzee (2015) puts it, that Tracey was.
Yet Mohapeloa saw his work as an archive.
‘As long as all [the] songs are published’, he wrote in 1935, meaning published by a mission press in tonic solfa notation, ‘the case of African Music will be made in the right place, kept for the coming generations’ (Mohapeloa 1935). My case for putting his entire output on record is similar: that it be an archive for academic scholars to study, like critical editions elsewhere, such as The Works of Guiseppe Verdi published in north America, which is ‘both rigorously faithful to authentic sources and suitable for performance’ (Chicago n.d.).
Mohapeloa oversaw more of his songs through publication than any other African choral composer has, and can be forgiven for imagining that this must ensure their collective survival. It did not, because his songs have been seen principally as tones-in-motion rather than as texts. Only a few examples, such as ‘U Ea Kae?’ ‘Obe’, and ‘Thoko ea Tlhōlo’ have been continually sung in competitions, right down to the present day. Just as in early nineteenth-century Europe the handful of pieces that represented Purcell or Bach, however, gave little sense of what these composers had been engaged in for a lifetime, so in the early twenty-first a few songs by Mohapeloa have given little sense of his stature as a composer. The same impulse exists behind this Edition, therefore, that motivated the first compilers of scholarly critical editions of scores in the mid-nineteenth century: to excavate and restore, and to reveal the breadth of work that one person was capable of;The first critical edition project was launched in 1851 by the Bach-Gesellschaft in Germany in order to publish the entire oeuvre of J.S. Bach. Published continuously by Breitkopf und Härtel this took decades to complete, outliving its originators. Editions of other European composers quickly followed, becoming a benchmark for scholarly music editing. The first musicological studies in Europe emerged out of work done on them. while the secondary motive is that this establishes a basis for further engagement with the music, including compositions based on or inspired by it. In addition to being an object of study, then, the edition is a resource for analysis and arrangement.
Mohapeloa’s part writing is unusual in the choral genre, because of his high Soprano tessituras and low Bass parts and the occasional increase or decrease of voices in some compositions. Many of his longer sacred works will make fine church anthems, his short, simple and highly effective Psalm settings should be taken up by church congregations, and a large number of his works lend themselves very well to brass band, wind or string arrangements – provided royalties are appropriately divided.
As an empirical object for study or for using in performance, the critical edition’s existence may begin to address the issue of widespread abuse of this music, as tones-in-motion recycled year after year as if there was no written text and no family needing royalties. This critical edition as a phenomenon does not try to make scores more important than performances.
Rather, it offers the music as a ‘matter of fact’ in the sense that Bruno Latour uses that phrase (2004, 233, after Heidegger) when he talks about an object as a ‘thing’ that we can look into, as opposed to behind, or through. One might say, after Latour, that the Mohapeloa Critical Edition is a thing that ‘designates [both] matters of fact and matters of concern’ (Latour Ibid). The matter of fact it constitutes is its more than 3 000 pages of score and critical apparatus, while the matter of concern it raises is its economic capital. This is a phenomenon that says, here is the life-work of an African composer whose music has been taken for granted for too long. It is time to factor it into the political economy of choralism as text, and time to pay more transparently for prescribing it at competitions where performance will possibly run into hundreds, across the country and throughout the year.
Where does the Mohapeloa Critical Edition belong?
Mohapeloa did not write a critical edition; he wrote works, one at a time, in Africa, for African people to sing. An edition of his works, one might argue, thus automatically makes this edition ‘African’. This does not mean, however, that it belongs only to Africa, for critical editions belong to a scholarly tradition that did not originate in Africa. It is not exactly an Africanization of a European tradition of critical editions but, rather, a ‘reshaping’ of that tradition (Mbembe 2015, after Ngugi), which belongs to contemporary Africa. It belongs to the production of indigenous knowledge in southern African music/ology, too, because it decenters the colonization of southern African music;
it helps to reshape the western musical canon by placing a subaltern repertoire centre stage.
It is the first African sheet music repertoire to be collected together as the complete works of an individual African composer. Its value as scholarship, however, is not assured, and this is why, in this final section, I argue that it belongs to a political economy in which research products should belong primarily to the commercial sphere, and only secondarily to the scholarly. I begin by revisiting the theme of economic inequality.
Stiglitz’s ‘great divide’ (2015) is an unprecedented performance of economic inequality that has led to global instability. ‘There’s no question’, says Picketty (2016, 171), ‘terrorism is fueled by the inegalitarian powder keg of the Middle East’. Equally obvious is the way Brexit and Trump were fueled by inegalitarianism in Britain and the United States. Higher Education (HE) belongs to the 99% world, not the 1%, losing financial ground (in real terms) every year. The South African Government subsidy for HE ‘dropped from 50% [of university income] in 1994 to 40% in 2014’ while student enrolments doubled (Mazibela 2016). South Africa also has ‘the lowest public expenditure on higher education as a percentage of GDP’ in the world, with a ‘decline from 0.86% in 1987 [to] 0.64% in 2008’ (Woodiwiss 2012). Within this shrinking economy, research subsidy is still earned by means of a formula that seems woefully outmoded. Angela Woodiwiss has compared our formula, in which financial rewards are ‘equal to the institution’s weighted research output multiplied by the total government funds available for research outputs and divided by the average normed research output for all institutions’ (Woodiwiss 2012), unfavourably to a number of other formulas world-wide. The more we produce, the less money everyone gets, a shrinking pot of money that in any case is only earned for ‘weighted research’. A large research outcome such as this critical edition has to pay in other ways, even to be seen as research.
Critical editions should be more integral to southern African research, I argue; and in the case of Mohapeloa, and maybe others, there is a case for literary as well as musical research. His song texts occupy more than 60 pages, and in them, in beautifully fashioned Sesotho poetry, he narrates the history of his clan (BaTaung) and the Basotho nation, The nation of Moshoeshoe, Basutoland, became a British ‘Protectorate’ in 1868. ‘South Sotho speaking peoples … inhabited a large portion of the northern and eastern Orange Free State’ when the area west of the Caledon River ‘was conquered by Free State Boers’; nowadays some Basotho ‘would also lay claim to the districts of Herschel and Matatiele in the Transkei, and most of the Orange Free State as rightfully belonging to a greater Sotho nation’ (Gill 1997, 109). describes villages and towns, tells stories about mission schools, the youth, political upheaval, cultural activities, farming, mining, and Lesotho’s birds, animals, crops, and weather. He tells of black experiences on The Reef in the early 1940s, where his Chuchukakhala was taken up by the (Basotho) Manhattan Brothers who made a recording of it with Miriam Makeba in 1954 (Mohapeloa 2014, track 9). Such things contributed to his growing fame and earned him a literary mention in Ezekiel Mphahlele’s short story, Grieg on a Stolen Piano (2006, 112). But mostly the experiences his songs relate are Lesotho-based. He takes you right to the heart of people and places: ‘you are there’, as my translator Mpho Ndebele put it (pers. comm.). His ‘ability to put listeners or whoever’s singing the song in the mood [was] almost perfect … It’s all there. One can feel it. One just has to go into the song and see what it is he depicts’ (Pitso 2014).
Land holds the key to the metaphorical system that the critical edition embodies, as a collection of music and texts, and that makes this edition belong, above all, to Lesotho. Mohapeloa imagined Lesotho as many things in the course of 145 scores: a country of vast natural beauty,We know of his love of nature not only from song texts but also from an essay on Mohapeloa written after his death by his brother, Professor J.M. Mohapeloa and fellow composer M.K. Phakisi (Mohapeloa and Phakisi, 1987). a tiny state under threat, a land scarred by soil erosion, a nation torn by internal strife, a kingdom of wonderful villages and customs, a realm of starvation, a land of plenty, a society of idiosyncratic individuals, a community of the faithful, and the distant dream of exiles working on the mines. Some of these imaginings are woven into his song, ‘Lesotho’ (1947), from Volume III of the edition. The English translation is by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse, edited by Mpho Ndebele.
Text of ‘Lesotho’ by J.P. Mohapeloa
Line 6, repeated at the end, poignantly echoes the title of Alan Paton’s novel Cry the Beloved Country, published in 1948, the year after the song, although the strife that Mohapeloa refers to in the line, ‘Re ka tsie e janang seropong’ [We quarrel among ourselves] is not the same kind of racial conflict Paton describes. The beloved country in this song is Moshoeshoe’s birthplace, a land of deep valleys and towering mountains (‘gorges and ridges’ is a poetic understatement), a peaceful, relaxing country, a land of ‘dreams, conversations, spirits’, and perhaps most surprising of all, a land of plenty.
The edition reveals an idealised Lesotho very different from the real one. Lesotho, whose main exportable wealth before independence was wool and afterwards hydro-electric power, has, since the global recession and drought and changes to cross-subsidization allowed under the Southern African Customs Union (Amirehsani 2014), been reduced to a very vulnerable state, more so than even the visionary Mohapeloa could have foreseen; and the hope voiced in ‘Lesotho’ remains extremely fragile.
Mohapeloa does present negative aspects of Lesotho in his songs, but obliquely, encoded within an overall metaphor of survival that enables him to admit failings while keeping up a consistently positive image of the country and its people, even some of its most dubious politicians. On the surface, his expression is stoutly Christian, optimistic, and at times patriotic. One of his last songs, ‘Chaba se Kopane!’ [Nation, Unite Together!], is in praise of Prime Minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan, who won the 1966 elections and despite legitimate ongoing opposition and losing an election, clung to power until 1986, when he was deposed in a military coup. Mohapeloa’s songs offer people hope, in the midst of confusion and despair, and many carry moral messages: work hard, laugh, sing, keep the faith, value your customs, live modestly. I do not know if he saw himself as an overtly political writer, but some song texts identify strongly with Africans’ independence struggles on the continent. Even the 1966 ‘Moshoeshoe, Tsoha’ is a very gentle, unassuming appeal to the founding king of the Basotho, Moshoeshoe I to return, a kind of prayer for his Second Coming, as the following extract shows ( English translation by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse, edited by Mpho Ndebele.)
Extract from text of ‘Moshoeshoe, Arise!’ by J.P. Mohapeloa
Moshoeshoe, arise! Mighty Warrior, arise!
Address the crowds here gathered.
Moshoeshoe, arise! Mighty Warrior, arise!
And witness the change that time has wrought.
Moshoeshoe, provide for us,
Share with us, please your sharpness and strength,
So that we can complete the work you began.
The first four and last three lines of Mohapeloa’s poem, shown here, generate the expectation of perfection for Lesotho, one day, when the spirit of Moshoeshoe returns, and the country will be a project fulfilled. At its first performance, writes an anonymous author in the Maseru newspaper The Echo on 5 October 1973, Moshoeshoe, Tsoha ‘was sung by a choir about 300 strong amid gentle raindrops while the statue of Moshoeshoe I was being unveiled by His Majesty Moshoeshoe II as part of [the] first Independence celebration’. The writer goes on to quote Mohapeloa as saying that he considered this his best song, ‘because it has the very African touch in its beat. [Elsewhere] I have been forced to compose rather exotic melodies because western-oriented people prefer the kind of melodies that they heard in western church music. Personally, I prefer to compose and listen to music that reflects my culture and taste as a Mosotho of Lesotho’.
Conclusion: How We Got Out of Critical Editions and How (Not) To Get Back In A play on Kofi Agawu’s article ‘How We Got Out Of Analysis And How To Get Back In Again’ (2004), which in turn was a polemical take on Joseph Kerman’s ‘How We Got Into Analysis and How To Get Out’ (1980).
Arguing against a social constructivist stance he held for most of his life, Bruno Latour (2004, 232) introduces the idea of a ‘second empiricism’, a stance that he bases on his concept of ‘matters of concern’ that I referred to earlier. What I am perhaps arguing for in this essay, aside from arguing for more critical editions, is for a kind of musicological critique outside of or beyond critical theory, beyond seeing something such as this critical edition as a ‘construction’; a critique that takes into account the hard economic realities of music production and dissemination. I have already reflected elsewhere on Mohapeloa’s work as an expression of African (post)modernism (Lucia 2008), a folksong archive (Lucia 2011b), and a Black musical response to Western music’s ‘Whiteness’ (Lucia 2014), interpretations that fit a broadly postcolonial/decolonising frame, as much of my work has done (Lucia 1986, 1992,2005b, 2007a, 2011a). I am aware that critical theory is in crisis: an enormous literature refers to this, ranging from Eagleton (2004) to Samuels (2009), Nickel (2012), and Allen (2016). The relevance of critique in musicology today is a subject of current debate: the University of London had a study day on 2 July 2016, for example, called ‘“Musicology after Postmodernism”: Critical Theory for Musicology’ (Harper-Scott 2016).
I have tried, here, to find ways into the edition that represent some of the economic realities that it embodies and faces, in order to open up a new discussion where critique takes a more realistic, particularly economic, turn, which implies focussing on ‘the work’ and on ‘income from it’. When Latour was speaking in 2004 (231) about the need to cultivate a ‘stubbornly realist attitude, I barely knew Mohapeloa’s work, but I was coming to the end of a career in South African academia where it was, for me, imperative to explore large sweeps, to expose discontinuities and unrealistic epistemologies such as those that lurked behind the teaching of music history and theory (Lucia 2005b and 2011a). The Mohapeloa Critical Edition was yet another move, for me, to decolonize knowledge and in this case recalibrate scholars’ and choristers’ views of African music repertoires in this region. It is important, yes, to see how certain (pre)conditions made it possible or impossible for Mohapeloa to shape his work and me to shape mine, but not to focus only on preconditions. The mistake, as Latour saw it, was to believe that there was no efficient way to criticize matters of fact except by moving away from them and directing one’s attention toward the conditions that made them possible. But this meant accepting much too uncritically what matters of fact were …
Matters of fact are not all that is given in experience. Matters of fact are only very partial and, I would argue, very polemical, very political renderings of matters of concern and only a subset of what could also be called states of affairs. It is this second empiricism, this return to the realist attitude, that I’d like to offer as the next task for the critically minded. (Latour 2004, 231-2).
The matter of concern, or state of affairs I have presented here, is the political economy of music composed and owned by individuals and families who are barely surviving in an era of global austerity. The commercial value of the music, I have argued, is just as important, and just as worthy of analysis, as its aesthetic value, at this historic juncture. The edition invites the critic to become, to use Latour’s words (Ibid, 246), ‘the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in great need of care and caution’.
The Mohapeloa Critical Edition speaks to shifting contact between races, classes, genders, between Lesotho and surrounding South Africa, and between entertainment platforms in different areas of the country. Mohapeloa’s music demonstrates the closeness of church and shebeen, town and country, ritual and classroom that was the lived experience of African people in his day. The Sesotho texts present widespread human interaction with change, on many levels, and one of the things this edition does, then, is perform an over-arching metaphor for historical adaptation to changes in the lives of ordinary people in African society. Although the songs address and portray the Basotho, predominantly, they chronicle a universal human struggle. The Edition provides the space to interrogate historical and cultural change, to understand Mohapeloa’s style and compare him to others, to ascertain his influence on composers in the jazz and choral spheres, indeed it reveals ways in which they are generically intertwined. It opens up the space for the study of a reception history of choral music, or the consideration of Mohapeloa song texts as literary work within the huge field of southern African literature. These and other interpretive moves are now possible, but none of it will make sense unless the edition circulates within a political economy of research that makes income for composers and their families.
Critical editions in southern Africa, however, should not be done like this one, by a single person working more or less alone, for years, with limited funding and time, fitting it around other projects, learning on the job. This is most definitely How Not To. The follow up must not be ‘more of the same’: this would only result in more of the African music I am trying to render more visible – in this case – sinking back into an even larger sea of obscurity and individual researchers sinking into even greater personal debt.
How To: Such projects internationally are the work of scholarly committees, with advisory boards, institutional resources, appropriate funding, a webmaster paid to construct and maintain an interactive web-based platform for online publishing, libraries ready to download (and subscribe to) volumes as they appear, musicologists ready to review their colleagues’ work and do interpretive work themselves, or encourage their students to. We could have a great deal of international support in our endeavour if it was a joint one, in collaboration with a comparable international project. We could partner with critical editions anywhere in the world. We could attend and indeed run ‘how to’ workshops: what I did in the Mohapeloa Critical Edition (and The Moerane Critical Edition) including the solving of textual problems unique to southern African solfa music. It can be extended to projects in South African jazz, and we can get into the same arguments that people who produced the Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band edition must have hadProject Muse’s Complete Recorded Works in Transcription of Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band (early New Orleans jazz recorded by Columbia records; A-R Editions 2012) was commissioned by the American Musicological Society in 2012., about how (not) to notate improvisation. All of this could, and should, generate musicological work but more important, income, for composers and their heirs, and income for researchers and (indeed) universities. A critical edition cannot in itself address South African students’ grievances at this historical juncture, nor can it help academics in their task of teaching under siege, but as an intellectual product it offers, in Mbembe’s (2015) words, ‘a renewed critique of political economy that aims at bringing together, dialectically, questions of race and [intellectual] property, of class and inequality, and of identity and what many call lived experience’.
in memory of Joyce Ntsiuoa Mohapeloa
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|1.||Everything but the translator of the song texts, which were expertly translated by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse and Mpho Ndebele. The names of many other people who assisted with the edition in small and large ways are listed in the Acknowledgments, including peer reviewers James Grier and Roger Parker.|
|2.||The Andrew Mellon-M.M. Moerane Critical Edition in Four Volumes was published in 2020 (Moerane 2020;).|
|3.||What I say in this essay, written in 2016, applies no less to the present day.|
|4.||These statistics were confirmed by the ‘Panama papers’ that first exposed information in May 2016 about multiple countries’ involvement in off-shoring, including South Africa (Shane 2016).|
|5.||I never submitted this edition for research subsidy, knowing full well that it was not a ‘weighted research output’ (Higher Education and Training 2015, 9). The only outcomes recognised as ‘research’ by the DoE are articles in journals, sole-authored books or book chapters, and papers in peer-reviewed conference proceedings. Edited work is not recognised as scholarly work because one is not the ‘originator’ of the work.|
|6.||Sadly, Mrs Mohapeloa passed away on 23 December 2018. She was so helpful and supportive throughout my research and I am glad that she lived to see the publication.|
|7.||For more on this, see Lucia 2005a.|
|8.||‘Khabane’ also means righteous, fine or virtuous.|
|9.||I am grateful to Mrs Mpho Ndebele for the translation of these inscriptions.|
|10.||Information for users can be viewed here. Reporting forms can be viewed here|
|11.||This is an abbreviation and elision of ‘mmè’ [mother] and ‘ea’ [of].|
|12.||‘“Yet None with Truer Fervour Sing”: Mohapeloa, Empire, and Lesotho’, delivered at the Eugène Casalis Symposium, National University of Lesotho, 29-31 October 2012 (later published as Lucia 2017; the paper centres around his song, ‘Coronation March’) and how he transformed it into ‘Lesotho Lefa la Rōna’ (https://african-composers-edition.co.za/work/lesotho-lefa-la-rona/).|
|13.||See endnote vi.|
|14.||The first critical edition project was launched in 1851 by the Bach-Gesellschaft in Germany in order to publish the entire oeuvre of J.S. Bach. Published continuously by Breitkopf und Härtel this took decades to complete, outliving its originators. Editions of other European composers quickly followed, becoming a benchmark for scholarly music editing. The first musicological studies in Europe emerged out of work done on them.|
|15.||The nation of Moshoeshoe, Basutoland, became a British ‘Protectorate’ in 1868. ‘South Sotho speaking peoples … inhabited a large portion of the northern and eastern Orange Free State’ when the area west of the Caledon River ‘was conquered by Free State Boers’; nowadays some Basotho ‘would also lay claim to the districts of Herschel and Matatiele in the Transkei, and most of the Orange Free State as rightfully belonging to a greater Sotho nation’ (Gill 1997, 109).|
|16.||We know of his love of nature not only from song texts but also from an essay on Mohapeloa written after his death by his brother, Professor J.M. Mohapeloa and fellow composer M.K. Phakisi (Mohapeloa and Phakisi, 1987).|
|17.||The English translation is by Mantoa Motinyane-Smouse, edited by Mpho Ndebele.|
|18.||A play on Kofi Agawu’s article ‘How We Got Out Of Analysis And How To Get Back In Again’ (2004), which in turn was a polemical take on Joseph Kerman’s ‘How We Got Into Analysis and How To Get Out’ (1980).|
|19.||Project Muse’s Complete Recorded Works in Transcription of Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band (early New Orleans jazz recorded by Columbia records; A-R Editions 2012) was commissioned by the American Musicological Society in 2012.|