Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa and the heritage of African song

  • Christine Lucia University of Stellenbosch


Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa (1908-1982) came from a third-generation Basotho family converted in the nineteenth century by the French-Swiss protestant Société des Missions Évangéliques chez les peuples non-chrétiens á Paris (SMEP; or Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, PEMS) (see Mohapeloa and Phakisi 2009; Gill 1993; Couzens 2003; Legassick 2010). The first three missionaries from PEMS had entered the world of the Basotho in 1833, one of them, Eugene Casalis, a “child of the Revolution and defender of the rights of man [who] helped build up the barricades in the revolution that overthrew the Bourbons” in Paris (Couzens 2003: 77). They were supposed to join a mission on the border of present-day Botswana, but John Philip of the London Missionary Society (LMS) under whose sway PEMS and other protestant missions fell, warned them of unrest, so they journeyed into the interior knowing that their plans might have to be changed upon their arrival at the LMS mission at Philippolis. Here, the unrest and upheaval further to the north was confirmed, and thus the PEMS missionaries were very open to Adam Krotz who directed them towards Basotho Paramount Chief Moshoeshoe (Couzens 2003: 80). He had been fending off the gunrunning and cattle-stealing Korana, and to help his task had already “sent to Philippolis to ‘buy’ a missionary”, as historian Martin Legassick puts it (2010: 235). Missions have played a long and complex role in the history of southern Africa, their impact still not fully understood in relation to the development of music in the region. PEMS became the most important mission in what is now called Lesotho, its culture enormously influencing Mohapeloa as he grew up. This article traces some of the ways in which he managed to embrace its influence as a composer while retaining the integrity of the Sotho music that was the basis of his style, in the process laying down an archive of African song. 


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How to Cite
Lucia, C. “Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa and the Heritage of African Song”. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, Vol. 9, no. 1, Nov. 2011, p. [56]-86, doi: