Singer Maffah, who is from Lesotho, lost her mother in 2009. Since then, she’s been living with her dad, a pastor and carpenter.
“He is 70 years old now,” she tells me. “At first, it was hard for him to understand my music but I loved it so much that he had to support me. He is amazing.”
The youngest of four brothers and two sisters, 21-year-old Maffah describes herself as the “black sheep” of the family, before allowing a knowing chuckle, suggesting she’s more innocent than her musical persona might suggest.
Malefa Evodia Maffah Suping was born in Lesotho’s capital Maseru. “Malefa means ‘inheritance’ in Sotho,” she tells me - and the young woman with the stage name Maffah is searching for an audience to inherit her music.
Performing in Lesotho for almost a year, the house and dancehall artist is not shy about expressing herself. I spoke to her about life, Lesotho and the hurdles she’s overcoming to pursue a music career.
How long have you been singing and performing music?
It’s been about nine months. I guess, I started properly on August 1, when I released my first single. I am still quite new to the music industry. But I’ve been singing and performing for fun for a long time.
Do you remember your first gig?
It was incredible - and the most nerve-wracking thing ever. It was the first time I’d been on stage but I killed it. From that day, I knew it was my calling.
Why did you get into music?
I love music. I am really passionate about it. I think God gave me this talent and I want to keep breathing life into it. Apart from all that, I am also trying to make a living from my music. I want this to be my career.
Who influences your music?
Where to start?! Honestly, Trina (an American rapper) and Rihanna are amazing. They are definitely the ones who inspire me.
Do you write your music?
I write my own lyrics. As for the beats, I have worked with Monarch Beats in South Africa and Andy Lyrical Beats. I also work with music producer T2. He is the one who masters and mixes my vocals. And I work with my crew, Boycott, and I collaborate with dancehall artist Bodiman. I work with a lot of amazing hip hop artists and a range of vocalists and dancers. I’m currently collaborating with a Nigerian singer who is based in South Africa.
Tell me about a couple of your songs.
Ohh Boy is a dancehall tune that I wrote after I saw how much my sister loved her hubby. I wrote it for them. They are true lovebirds. My hook is actually in Shona, the most widely spoken Bantu language. I love using different languages while singing.
And Ke Hloka Wena is a house tune I did with DJ Ramblamb, a local Lesotho artist. I had previously collaborated with another artist, Motlatsi, who is friends with DJ Ramlamb. And that’s how Ramlamb came to love my voice. He asked if I could collaborate with him! He sent me the beat and I wrote to it. I decided to write a love song based on the line, ‘Ke hloka wena’, meaning ‘I need you’. It was for my crush!
Describe the Lesotho music scene.
Music in Lesotho isn’t well sponsored nor cared for. Which is funny, because we all love music. Musicians don’t get any royalties at all. It is very hard because there are no companies that deal with music. And we try to perform at shows but we get peanuts. Sometimes we don’t even get paid at all. But Basotho are very talented artists. All we need is to be supported and paid whenever our songs get radio play. And also when we perform at shows.
The government should be more willing to support the music and arts industry. And others need to stop being stingy and pay us when we perform at their events. Artists and musicians also need to organise better, to ensure our rights are protected and we get paid the right amounts. Here, I am talking about DJs, producers, radio presenters - everyone in the creative and music sectors. We need a strong union or association that will argue on our behalf.
It’s not possible to make a living from performing music.
We must work elsewhere in order to invest in our craft.
I’m working in catering at the moment. The little money I get from this job helps me to pursue my music. But it’s not easy.
As a woman, are there extra barriers for you as a musician?
I meet lots of people who look down on me because I’m female. Many people believe the music industry is for men only. These people want to ruin our lives and want us to sleep with them for a collaboration or they’ll promise us fame if we sleep with them. Cruel world.
What role does music play in Lesotho politics?
A big role. There are songs for political parties and they are amazing. But these musicians don’t get paid well or paid at all.
Where do want to be in five years?
I want to be everywhere! Perform at the Billboard Awards, and maybe somehow get featured by an American artist. I want to share with the world what I love doing.
- Bill Snaddon is a freelance journalist covering southern Africa. This conversation has been condensed.