Field Notes: Expedition #K2K – Tlokoeng, Lesotho

Exploring Climate Issues in Lesotho

Conservation Music (CM) kicked off leg two of Expedition #K2K with a 12-hour drive from Cape Town, South Africa to Maseru, Lesotho. A few weeks prior to our arrival, Lesotho’s climate swung from harsh droughts to historic rain and hail storms, highlighting exactly why we are here. Our focus for the month resided in the rural village of Tlokoeng, where our music theme was set to raise awareness on “Rural Water Challenges,” a project in partnership with Conservation Music Lesotho and Professor Tsepo Mokuku from the National University of Lesotho (NUL). Take a visual leap into CM’s fieldwork by checking out our Web series video below.

Upon arriving to Tlokoeng, we began our mission with a quest for musicians to assist in the creation of our eco-song, Metsi A Rona (Our Water). The search naturally led us to the home of Ntate Motolinyane, the principle mamokhorong player in the village. We later learned that he is also the man in charge of maintaining the water pumps that supply the community taps.

“I’ve noticed a change in the rain, the patterns of the rain. While I was still young, rain was always there but it was never a type of rain that would bring floods. Everything was there, the land was green, there was a lot of maize. Rain was always coming, but nowadays what we get is no rain at all but when it comes, it comes with a heavy pour and it messes things up.“ ~Motolinyane | Tlokoeng, Lesotho

We ventured on to the closest mountain, a common place for local artists to convene around sunset. As we approached, local eyes raised and revealed a familiar musical nature. It’s incredible how musicians from any combination of cultures can somehow identify one another through a common wavelength. Our group of artists continued to expand and range from experienced elders to younger vocalists, all eager to be a part of a movement bigger than themselves. This amalgam of the old and the new is exactly the kind of collaborative effort we strive to capture.

The crew continued to ignite conversation regarding the effect that climate change has had on the locals and their village, and how we can work together to better the issues at hand. An initial focus group discussion allowed us to better understand the existing local knowledge of water conservation, and to make note of true stories relating to drought and harsh storms in the village. Together, we identified four key points to be depicted through the storytelling of the verses, while the chorus reinforced the general message. We finalized the verses together with the vocalists and then began rehearsals. Meanwhile, we sat down with locals Limakatso, Motolinyane, and Mokotjo Marake, as well as our own local team member, Rebel Sol, for some brief documentary interviews. Check out more of CM’s stories and videos on National Geographic’s OpenExplorer platform.

CM’s Diverse Crew Sings Loudly

As the songs composition solidified, we headed into week two and began recording in the nearby thatched-roof rondavel. The track developed further with a variety of vocals, the mamokhorong, moropa drum, guitar, bass, jaw harp, tsoelia whistling, and ululations. Woven between the core song and video production were interviews and testimonials with both artists and locals of the village. They weighed in on not only music’s role as an activator for change, but each individual’s role in the community, and the world at large.

With a diverse and unique track recorded, we trekked deeper into the mountains to begin filming for the song’s video. Up the steep slopes, we found giant caves that once served as homes for the Batlokoa people, and later King Moshoeshoe. Currently, these caves are essential for balisana (shepherds) to use as kraals (corrals) to keep their animals from overgrazing the lands. From the caverns to the mountain’s ridgeline, the immersion into this cultural and historical space was a surreal experience and a perfect shooting location to display visuals coherent with our song’s message. The following day we spent time in the valley surrounded by sorghum, maize, rivers, and dongas to wrap up the shoot. With remote shooting locations such as these, it’s important that we have a proper sound system to play back recordings to ensure proper vocal dubbing while editing. We are not only grateful for the help from our volunteers, but also to DreamWave South Africa for supplying us with their Elemental Bluetooth speaker, which has 30 watts of power to maximize our sessions no matter where we are. This tool benefits the mission daily and allows us to continue spreading environmental knowledge through our eco-song and music video creations.

Tlokoeng Gathers for a Community Screening of Metsi A Rona

The second leg of Expedition #K2K concluded in Tlokoeng with a brief impact evaluation and a community screening of their very own music video. Following the screening, we conducted a series of surveys to compare against the preliminary results, which will allow our team to evaluate the production’s educational impact amongst the villagers. Our final days were filled with unity as we all gathered to celebrate a successful song and music video, one that the Tlokoeng community can be proud to share with generations to come. We are so grateful to have spent such quality time in Tlokoeng, and are eager to return as soon as possible to continue our collaboration with the community! Next stop, eSwatini.

Expedition #K2K is our third iteration of long-term field work, and it is by far the most exciting. To learn more about CM, and to stay connected throughout the mission, please subscribe to our Newsletter below, check out our blog on National Geographic, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. For live updates from the field, be sure to check out our page on National Geographic’s newest digital journaling platform, OpenExplorer. If you would like to contribute to Expedition #K2K, please visit our Patreon page, where you can schedule monthly donations of any amount.

This post was written by Charles Ross for Conservation Music.

About Conservation Music

Our Musical Nonprofit For Conservation

of Conservation Music

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Conservation Music is on a mission to produce and promote musical media that educates listeners and viewers in conservation and sustainability, with an emphasis on rural developing communities, and to serve as a platform for similar efforts. Currently, the organization primarily collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more.

About the Editor

Alex Paullin

of Conservation Music

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After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger. Throughout his life he aims to expand the Conservation Music movement globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.