Sankomota – Papa
The Legacy of Sankomota’s Papa
Sankomota was a legendary band from Lesotho that pioneered Afro-jazz and pop music in South Africa. Their song Papa, released in 1989, is a tribute to the father of the lead singer Tsepo Tshola, who was also a musician and an inspiration to many. The song is a powerful expression of gratitude, love and respect for the father figure who taught Tshola the value of music and life.
The song begins with a chorus that captures the anticipation and anxiety of waiting for one’s name to be called on the judgement day, implying that one’s deeds and legacy will be evaluated. The song then shifts to a verse where Tshola addresses his son, urging him to take over and continue the musical tradition. He says he wants to be with his son on the judgement day, implying that he wants to be proud of him and his achievements.
The second verse is a reflection on Tshola’s own life and how he was born from a master of inspiration, his father. He says that the flesh that dies brings a god that lives in you, meaning that his father’s spirit lives on in him and his music. He sincerely passes his greatest gratitude to his father, who left a message in a song for him to hear. He says it is only proper to pass it on to the ears that feel and know the truth.
The song then repeats the chorus and goes on to a bridge where Tshola sings in Sesotho, a language spoken in Lesotho and parts of South Africa. He calls out to Jesus, saying that he is walking on a path where many have perished, but he is guided by Jesus, who is the only one who can help him. He then invites a choir to join him in singing this song, creating a gospel-like atmosphere.
The song ends with another bridge where Tshola repeats that Jesus is the only one who can help him, and then fades out with the choir singing “oh whoa”. The song is a masterpiece of Afro-jazz and pop music, blending elements of soul, funk, rock and traditional African music. The song showcases Tshola’s powerful vocals, as well as the band’s skillful instrumentation and arrangement. The song is also a testament to the influence and impact of Tshola’s father, who was not only a musician but also a teacher, a leader and a saint.
Sankomota’s exposure to these musical giants influenced their sound and style, as they incorporated elements of soul, funk, rock and reggae into their Afro-jazz and pop repertoire. They also learned from the experiences and struggles of their fellow African artists, who faced oppression, exile and censorship under the Apartheid regime.
In 1979, Sankomota changed their name from Uhuru, after discovering that there was another band with the same name from Jamaica. They chose Sankomota, which means “mighty warrior” in Sesotho and Sepedi languages. The name reflected their resilience and determination to overcome the challenges they faced as a band from a small and landlocked country.
In 1983, Sankomota made history by becoming the first band to record an LP in Lesotho. They were recorded by Lloyd Ross and Warrick Sony of Shifty Records, a South African independent label that supported anti-Apartheid music. The album was self-titled “Sankomota” and it featured nine tracks that showcased the band’s versatility and talent. The album included songs like “Papa”, “Malala Pipe”, “Disposable Hero” and “Tough Talk”.
The album was well received by critics and fans alike, and it established Sankomota as one of the leading bands in Southern Africa. The album also attracted the attention of international promoters and record labels, who offered the band opportunities to tour and record abroad. Sankomota soon became a household name in countries like Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique.