2022 marks the 15th year anniversary for high flying choral music group Serumula Performing Arts Academy (SPAA) which was established in 2007 by renowned conductor Lehlomela Tente as it was his vision to lead the best choral music choir in Lesotho.
Tente was born and bred in Cana, a village in the area of Ha-â€˜Mamathe in Berea where he started singing at Cana L.E.C Primary School to Cana High School where he was singing for the school choir. He then joined Maseru LECSA Choir singing then he was invited to conduct Lerotholi Polytechnic Choir before joining Maseru Vocal Waves. He also, led Machabeng College Choir during his schooling days there as well as L.I.F.E High School before going to school in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa where he was also conducting Natal University Choir until he returned home in 2004.
Looking back to the choirâ€™s track, Tente explained that, SPAA was started because of his admiration of the Southern African choral music giants including Durban Serenates Choral Society based in Durban and Gauteng Choristers which triggered him to come up with Lesothoâ€™s own great choral music choir. He said that as the executives of SPAA they had a 20 yearsâ€™ plan which was for the academy to be a world class choir which has capacity of training its members as well as staff which SPAA has achieved in its 15 years in the industry.
â€œI had a vision, put it on paper like a business plan outlining where I wanted to go then I approached a few people whose musical abilities I knew, and asked them to help by being pilot board members of SPAA for five years. Among them were Thabo Khasipe, Katleho Pefole, Masheane Makhera, RetÅ¡elisitsoe MotÅ¡oeneng and Patrick Marabe who helped SPAA in growing its direction as young as I was.
â€œThe vision itself has always been mine of where I wanted to go so the support I got from those people made SPAA what it is today as we have achieved so much in Lesotho and South Africa. For instance, just before Covid-19 became a pandemic we were supposed to go to France to showcase for a month,â€ Tente said.
During the 15 years of operation, SPAA has collected over 40 trophies from competitions including the Southern African region, including the African Melody Festival which they have won seven times. Also, SPAA has participated in the National Standard Competition in 2013, the O.R Tambo Melting Pot Arts festival in 2016, Lengaung Choral Music Festival, Gauteng Choral Music Association and Old Mutual National Choral Music Festival.
Tente highlighted that the competitions gave out trophies and money which they invested in buying musical equipment, and covering all the expenses that the choir needs.
SPAA recruits musicians from 16 years of age to 35 years and also has facilitators who teach students different musical instruments including piano which from which they have graduated four learners so far while also having produced numerous musical conductors. It works with the Academy Board of Royal Schools of Music from the United Kingdom which has made them a center for administration for exams in Lesotho.
Furthermore, they have released two albums, â€˜The best of Serumulaâ€™ which has 28 songs being a double CD as well as â€˜Lula le â€˜naâ€™ and currently flaunts 62 members. SPAA aims to branch into other musical genres such as Gospel and Jazz music.
Tente said that SPAA has been involved in social responsibility activities like donations to the needy and orphans in homes and schools. He also mentioned that they have been involved in community projects such as planting trees in Koalabata to prevent soil erosion.
â€œWe also contributed in building three churches around Lesotho, which are Mabote LECSA, Khethisa High School for needy students, we contributed together with the church at Mohaleâ€™s Hoek L.E.C.,â€ Tente said.
He also indicated that there is going to be a 15 years anniversary celebration on December 7 2022 where there will be a showcase of what SPAA has been doing since its establishment where some of its long-serving members will be honoured.
Speaking to Newsday Arts, SPAA member Matiea Rakoti who has been with the choir for eight years indicated how she has been involved with the choir beyond just singing but has participated in other responsibilities for the choirâ€™s functioning such as serving as its Spokesperson.
She stated that lack of funds is a big challenge for the choir and the whole choral music movement, adding that, they need sponsors and more competitions for the day to day choir expenses including office expenses.