Puseletso Seema

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The little landlocked nation of Lesotho is so poor that at one point in the '80s, there was only one television set in the entire country. It was located in a bar, and people would stand in line, waiting…
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The little landlocked nation of Lesotho is so poor that at one point in the '80s, there was only one television set in the entire country. It was located in a bar, and people would stand in line, waiting their turn to watch the set for ten minutes each. There has always been plenty of room for music, however, with traditions including a native form of country & western associated with the range-roaming cowboys of Lesotho, and a window seat reserved on every bus for an accordion player. If Puseletso Seema rode on one of these buses, it might not because he wants to entertain the passengers, as an intinerant traditional musician of the country might be known to do. Seema would probably instead be on the way to a recording session, ready to cut tracks of what is known as modern Sotho pop music. The instrumental lineup will be something like bass, drums, driving electric guitar, and of course accordion. In Lesotho, however, musical instruments are seperated into only two categories: "liletsa tsa matsoho," those sounded by hand, and "liletsa tsa molomo," those sounded by mouth. In either category it was once not considered proper to consider onself a "professional" musician, but important changes in the Sotho culture have led to an understanding of the special nature of an artist such as Seema, whose peppy recordings have tantalized the international world music scene. The development of a recording industry within the country has been part of this change in attitude. Whereas once the image of the music of Lesotho had been the songs of herdboys and the twang of a special zither that was used to control cows, Seema and his associates were part of a wave of artists doing things in the big city fashion. This approach includes sophisticated recording sessions complete with producers. The Globe Style label released a full-length album of Seema in collaboration with the band Tau Ea Linare, entitled He O Oe Or!, and it is a typical example of the types of recording sessions that developed as a small African nation's music industry began to grow. An artist such as Seema would often be discovered by talent scouts roaming the countryside, who would then arrange a session in order to match the new talent up against an existing studio band. Rehearsals were usually minimal, but like many American R&B sessions, the results were often exciting. Seema writes many of his own songs, the themes ranging from the problems of farming to the joys of partying. The title of one song is a good thing to remember if one is ever in Lesotho trying to explain a bad mood: "Kesetse Mahlomolenu" or "I've been left in sorrow." In 1999, Seema was one of the performers involved in the Morija Art and Cultural Festival, the first major cultural festival in Lesotho's history.