Famo Music Gang Wars

At the beginning of September, Mafeteng Hospital hosted a children’s event for children with disabilities. Some of the coaches involved in our programme were invited to facilitate some soccer activities and other games.

While I was there taking some pictures a young man named Nalete, the DJ for the event, asked me to take his picture. He explained that he was a famo recording artist and would use the pictures for his album cover. I took his picture and a couple weeks later we worked out a way that I could email it to the guy who was putting his album together.

Recently, I ran into Nalete in Mafeteng and he was selling his album, so I bought one. I have included a couple of youtube videos below to give you an idea of the style of music. I would have included Nalete's songs, but I had trouble trying to embed an mp3 player into the post.

Famo is an interesting type of music. When I first listened to it I had to ask someone if they actually use an accordion. I think it's unique to Lesotho. I’ve read that it originates from migrant workers from Lesotho working in mines in South Africa in the 1920s. In Lesotho it is quite popular. Many of the minibuses will constantly blast it.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but another side story is that there has been a gang war between two rival groups over this past year. It’s somewhat similar to the east coast – west coast rap rivalries in the mid 90s, but with less talking and more shootings – 30 have been killed since the beginning of this year. In their lyrics artists will often direct insulting statements at the rival group or their family members. Mafeteng, the district in which I live, is a hub for famo music and is the location for some of these killings. Just recently in Mafeteng a number of famo artists were shot at while they were attending a funeral of a famo artist who was previously killed. There are even calls for the government to become involved to mediate the dispute. I guess HIV and TB are not the only things contributing to the 40 year life expectancy here.

Oct 25, 2010

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