Music is the greatest reverberator of peoples’ culture, history, traditions and value systems. It is an authentic signature that makes a society stand out from the rest, therefore making it one of the most powerful art forms we have.
Born Litsebe Monoko, ‘Bible Verse’ is an artiste on a mission to use his music to remind people of who they are by highlighting traditional expressions and teachings that resonate with his audience.
In a conversation with Metro, Monoko shares his life story and speaks at length about his long standing relationship with music.
According to him, music conveys across messages that educate, build understanding and heal the people that listen to it, which is what he aims to do with his music.
At the back of his mind, the artiste recollects that Lesotho has given birth to influential musicians that are very successful and internationally recognised, mostly in the Afro-Jazz and Famo genres.
Artistes like Letsema Mats’ela, Ts’epo Ts’ola, Bhudaza Mapefane, Mochoko Mapefane, Sefatela and Sankomota set the tone for music in Lesotho.
But as it stands, there are very few members of this current generation who have received such international recognition in music.
“When I grew up in Lower-Thamae I loved poetry even though at the time I didn’t know any local poets. I mostly followed the works of Mzwakhe Mbuli whose subject matter was mainly on the liberation struggle and religion. I also followed Lebo Mashile who was brilliant at merging poetry with music as she had a way with reciting over beats. I could say this is where the seed of ‘spoken word’ was sown into my heart,” says Bible Verse.
He adds: “During this period, I was heavily into church, then through books and films like Sarafina, I developed a pro-black disposition, which then built a strong appreciation for myself, my culture and my people.”
Growing up, he listened to groups like Sankomota, which contributed in shaping his ‘authentic storytelling’ approach that is evident in his music.
In December 2017, he released his first album dubbed Maseru King’s Way Music – a heavily featured body of work that landed him two awards.
From the 2017 Music Awards (UMAs) he walked away with the ‘Best Hip-Hop Artist’ title, whilst getting the ‘Best Male Artist’ award from the 2017 Fashion and Music Awards.
He worked with an array of talented local artists such as Pitso Ramakhula, Iso, Black, Sadon, Febric, Vector, Chino El Vito, Nel Rivers, Anonymous, L-Tore, T-Mech, Shava, Ava and Dave Stone to compile the award winning opus.
The title says it all, he says, explaining that North West is represented by the Motswako sound and he therefore believes his sound is simply to be called Maseru King’s way music.
“I wanted to exchange creative energy and also influence the people I worked with, who were also artists I respect in the industry.
“My desire was to have all of us speak about our everyday life experiences, which would ultimately brew an authentic sound that we can claim as our own, that people could relate to, instead of trying to ‘Americanize’ our sound and stories,” he explains.
When asked about his take on the state of local music industry and what it needs in order for it to grow to the point where artists can really reap the fruits of their creative toil, Bible Verse quickly responded: “The industry is in the hands of the government and promoters.”
According to him, for a long time local artists, mainly musicians, have scorned the concept of event promoters that prioritise foreign artists – mainly South African based – over locals.
“Some have shown that their remuneration during events are just enough to cover ‘exposure, catering and cab money’ expenses as opposed to their counterparts who get paid in thousands.”
He further explains: “Promoters are like investors, they call SA artistes to sell more tags and I really don’t blame them, but I feel their approach to local artists needs to change. The government on the other hand has no strict laws that force promoters to book local artistes, especially when most of the big events happen on government owned venues like Setsoto Stadium, ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre and the Thaba-Bosiu cultural village.”
He strongly believes that “if the government puts in place strict laws that bind promoters to not only consider local artists, but to also remunerate them fairly, the industry will grow rapidly.”
Currently working on his Sophomore album, he aims not to have as many features as he did on the first one. In between working on the album he has been working on collaborations and singles that stand as mirrors of his growth as an artiste and make him remain relevant.
His ambition is to beat the odds by investing the little he has until he can get international recognition and be able to travel the world to share his story through music.
“I cannot wait for all my fans to hear it. My prayer is that I break through in South African and have some shows in Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Netherlands and Germany. In the first album I made multiple references to my ancestors, to remember them. In the upcoming second album I’ll emphasise more on those concepts,” he says.
He adds: “As Basotho, we are really lucky to have ancestors who left us with a ‘religion’ we can call our own. This is despite King Moshoeshoe I having allowed western missionaries that brought Christianity into our culture.”
Bible Verse believes his music will serve as an almanac to those get to listen to it, “as I will continue to decant stories of old days that carry ancestral teachings.”