Mpho Molikeng is a renowned one -in many artists who hails from Lesotho. He is one of the creative and unique artist who has mastered the skills of involving himself in many disciplines of arts which ultimately earned him a title of been a multi-faceted artist . Far from playing a number of African instruments such as lesiba, mamokhorong, setolo, mbira, and djembe, he is also known for been a Curator, Actor, Musician, Poet, Painter, Story-teller and cultural activist.
Molikeng studied Fine Arts with Bloemfontein College in 1995. He continued studying Drama at Soyikwa Institute of African Theatre in 1998. In 2016 Molikeng was the co-facilitator at the Music In Africa Instrument Building and Repair Workshop, in addition to been a visiting lecturer at Wits University in Johannesburg in 2017.
“I constantly reinvent and reconfigure myself as well as enjoying new challenges in life, especially engaging in new projects”, said Molikeng. He conceded that focusing and prioritizing projects is important in that one will channel all the resources and their energy one significant project, which will ultimately be successful. “I am a hard worker who can paint in the morning, rehearse an instrument in the afternoon, as well as writing a proposal for a project in the evening, and still be able to read a book before going to bed”, said Molikeng. Even though I am an artist with many talents i have learnt to focus my attention on doing “one thing at a time and enjoy seeing it coming to fruition”.
As much as he is competent playing almost all indigenous instruments such as Lesiba, Sekgankula, Lekope, Lekolilo, Setolo-tolo, Sekebeku, Mbira, Marimba, Drums, Uhadi, Umakhoyane, Thomo, Mokhope, Marothloane, Lekhitlane, Kudu-horn, Dinaka and many more, Mpho Modikeng’s approach to using the instruments differ from phase to phase. “A lot of my work lately is in music more than other types of the arts as I find lot of opportunities therein than in other”, said Molikeng. Only time and circumstances dictate to me which instrument I must use, but not using others does not mean that I have neglected them.
Like many other artists in the world who inherited music from their families, he too took it from his mother who was involved in music, and had sang with bands in the early 70’s in Maseru. “I was never brought up to be an artist, I am because I defied my mother. I just loved doing stuff with my hands, I sung in choirs, I was generally active in different activities both at school and in my village”, said Molikeng.
Even though he can play Sekgankula, Lekope, Lekolilo, Setolo-tolo, Sekebeku, Mbira, Marimba, Drums, Uhadi, Umakhoyane, Thomo, Mokhope, Marothloane, Lekhitlane, Kudu-horn, Dinaka, his journey was indifferent in that he wanted to learn “Lesiba” because it was a difficult instrument for many to play. “I tried different instruments and in no time I will get a big collection of those instruments, said Molikeng.
Mpho Molikeng became the director of the company called Menu Of Arts (MOA) in 2009 during the economic melt-down in Lesotho. In 2011 I had the privilege of performing in a one man Show festival at the Jo’burg Theatre. My entry into the industry was marked by my “One Man Shows”, which I wrote and performed. Two of the shows which were awarded the best written production were ‘The Cone’ and ‘This Operation” which were meant for WindyBrow Festival in “2001 and 2003” respectively.
I wanted a festival that would honour some of the best writers and performers of one man shows in their lifetime and use my festival as a conducive platform to achieve my goals. I am a visionary, and have good ideas to work on, but funding is always a challenge. “I stopped after that one festival you know, but if I can get funds any time soon I would do the show every year or twice a year if not every Sunday”, said Molikeng.
“I always loved performing live over a studio session, I don’t have a big catalogue, but I have been fortunate to have people across the globe whom I have collaborated with on projects that led to many others thereafter”. As a poet I enjoyed performing with others at the “Joburg Poetry Sessions” of the late 90’s right into 2000’s. I curated two Solo Exhibitions ‘Rambling 22’ at “The Workers Library” in 2011 and ‘Tattoo’ at the “Jo’burg City Library” in 2014 which later went to Museum Africa.
I acted in my own shows and featured in few Industrial theater shows. As a Storyteller, I worked with Zanendaba Storytellers, Kwesukela Storytelling Academy and I got invited to share stories and music at the “SA National Storytelling” day in Durban from which I did a lot of Corporate Events.
Molikeng is of the view that the advent of Covid-19 (Corona Virus) has brought about many challenges to the industry, and has forced all of us to “Press- a- Reset button”. The pandemic has forced most people to work remotely with few others, and I am currently relearning and unlearning lot of stuff”, said Molikeng. One of his new releases is a single which is a tribute and a petition to/for Letsema Matšela called ‘Likhomo Matšela’ and many which are yet to follow.
In 2013 I featured in “Africa and West Collide”, where I had already started collaborating with a few improvisers around the world with the intent of changing the perception about African Indigenous Musical Instruments (AIMI).
It is true that as artists we express ourselves through our artworks. “For me the art helped me to escape my own life as I had a lot going on, but through the arts I was in a better position to deal with my own baggage, said Molikeng. I then realized the need to resurrect our forgotten musical gems which was gathering dust in the lives of creative people who were adamant to tapping in that territory. Only a handful of artists persisted as we wanted our music to feature prominently in the mainstream music. We taught people to listen and appreciate music, and ultimately we inspired young people who are currently dire players of those instruments (that we used).
Molikeng is adamant about leaving a legacy by adapting a song of “Letsema Matšela” and gave it a millennial feel. “I am open to collaborate with other artists as that gives me an opportunity to grow and to find new ways to execute my own work”, said Molikeng. I am always working on a new project with someone outside my own scope and there is more coming this year just not at liberty to share now as they still premature.
Mpho Molikeng’s favorite artist is Salif Keita whose vocal power makes him to love African music dearly. There are lots of other artists who inspires Molikeng for various reasons, which makes me conclude by saying, “the future of Africa is in its indigenous cultures, and if properly followed Africa would heal without an effort”.
“Letsema Matšela’s Sesotho is a library every Mosotho shouldn’t be without”, said Molikeng.