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Open letter to Lesedi FM

22 August 2012, 08:50

An open letter to Mr Pula Pula Mothibi, Station Manager: Lesedi FM

An uninformed support by Lesedi FM for some artists cause divisions within Famo music industry

Dear Mr Mothibi

You most probably do not know me. In fact, it would be unfair for me to expect you to know me. I am one of the millions of listeners of the Radio Station that you manage, Lesedi FM. My support for Lesedi FM is ingrained in my blood. During the mid- to late eighties, when I was not even a teenager, me and my family used to listen to LesediFM – then called Radio Sesotho – religiously. Apart from the fact that television and VHS video players were a privilege reserved for a few, we used to enjoy, amongst others, majestic theatre plays (dipale le ditshwantshiso), news bulletins, commentaries, and soccer games aired by this station.

I provide you this background to indicate to you that I have been a supporter of the station for my life. I also wish to inform you that my passion for Famo music was greatly influenced by Lesedi FM. The programme; Ditsamayanaha, which used to play the likes of Manka le Phallang, Mantsa, Apollo Ntabanyane, Bana Ba Boleka, etc., introduced me to the hymns of migrant workers, which are sang behind the sounds of an accordion (koriana).

Lesedi FM must therefore pride itself for being a major medium of promoting Famo music to South Africans in particular and Africans in general. This music, which has become a pride of the Basotho people, is a symbol of hope for a nation almost heading to artistic oblivion in modern day Africa. And Lesedi FM should be credited for being a key contributor to the genre’s ascension unto competitive African song and dance.

It is because of this reason that I was shocked by the decision of your Radio Station to influence the listeners to vote for specific artists, songs and albums towards the nominations of the South African Traditional Music Awards (SATMA) for this year. While I support some of the choices you have made, I don’t really think some choices deserved to be made. But my preferences are that of an individual. They may be subjective. But so are Lesedi FM’s.

Firstly, the choices your station has made are not based on a specific criterion. If there was a criterion used, that was not communicated to listeners. For example, in order for you to encourage the nomination of Tau Ea Matshekha for Best Sesotho Album, did you perhaps look at the following; 1) Did the artist release an album in the period from March 2011 to February 2012? 2) Did the album receive sufficient airplay and record sales to qualify as “Best”? 3) Is the album influential in the traditional music genres? 4) Did you ask listeners to vote for their favourite artist or group?  These are some of the questions that could serve as criteria for anyone to nominate a “best” album or artist. Liking an artist or song or album is not entirely sufficient for it to qualify as “best”.

Secondly, despite the conspicuous absence of criteria by Lesedi FM to nominate artists, the fact that one, rather than three, artists or groups were nominated exposes possible bias on the side of the Radio Station. SATMA requires of Radio Stations to nominate the “Top Three Artists or Groups” in each category. This is intended to eliminate possible bias by Programs Managers, Traditional Music DJs or Music Compilers. So, Mr Mothibi, why did Lesedi FM nominate just one artist or group per category? Was this done to give unfair advantage to the nominated artists, at the expense of others who are not nominated? I really wonder.

Irrespective of what your response to this is, Mr Mothibi, one thing is clear: The decision is unfair and misguided. One possible unitended consequence of this decision is the creation of possible tensions between artists within Famo music. History has proven that divisions among artists often find reflection among supporters of those artists. The fact that there was no criterion used to nominate Artist X, rather than Artist Y, is a precondition for unnecessary divisions. reports that at least a hundred musicians and producers have been killed in the past two years in the gang wars. A radio presenter was also killed in this Famo wars. This simply shows that Radio, due to its positioning in the music industry, can either contribute to harmony, or fuel wars among artists. It is for this reason, Ntate Mothibi, that I urge you ensure that Lesedi FM does not find itself entangled in unnecessary divisions within the Famo music industry.

I have been a supporter of Famo music for almost twenty (20) years. In this period I have collected an impressive library of cassettes, CDs and DVDs by various Famo artists. My library does not discriminate artists on the basis of gender, age or place of origin. I play artists from Mafeteng, Leribe, Maseru, Semonkong, and even South Africa. In these 20 years of unbroken support for Famo, I have always monitored how Lesedi FM applied naked bias to certain artists. Certain artists were given more preference over others. This is a very disturbing trend by a Radio Station that is supposed to be fair in the promotion of OUR music.

I therefore request you, Ntate Mothibi, to ensure that Lesedi FM refrains from actively participating in fuelling divisions within the Famo industry. Your leadership is necessary if we are to realize a strong, united, competitive and prospering Famo industry. I have enough confidence in your capacity to ensure that these can be achieved.


Tiisetso Makhele



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