The legacy of the founder of Sankomota – a very popular African music band – is now available as a book. Written by Frank Leepa’s sister, Mpho A Leepa, Born for Greatness: Biography of Frank Leepa is covers the important parts of Frank Leepa’s life – from the killing of his father by the a rented SADF military gunship, to his uphill battle in music and starting his band about three times to his love life and the finality of his death. This book qualifies as an almost-complete account of Frank Leepa’s short life.
Born in 1955, Frank Leepa taught himself music after dropping out of school and he became one of the best musicians of our known history. He started Anti-Antiques in 1974, and then Uhuru in 1976 – 1977 and Sankomota right after that. Sankomota’s music became the defining sound of the 1980s and 1990s. They were kicked out of South Africa in Sharpeville in 1976, by the SA’s Special Branch and told never to come to the country again. Their music was also banned. They finally toured Europe – where they met Ian Kerkhoff (now known as Aryan Kaganoff) and his interview in Melkweg catapulted Sankomota to European stardom. Sankomota was the first band in and out of Lesotho, to record an LP in that country in 1984. The band was banned in South Africa so they could not record anything in this country. Shifty’s Lloyd Ross drove his mobile studio to Maseru and recorded the pioneering and historical self-titled album of Sankomota.
Frank Leepa died in 2007 in his hometown of Maseru, Lesotho. There was no national mourning or importance around this great son of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho – perhaps Lesotho’s best musical export ever. When he died, his band had disbanded for the umpteenth time, finances of the band were in turmoil and his health was declining but he was still writing music.
This book adds to the growing body of southern African musical history. It will be followed by biographies of other artists soon to be published by Geko Publishing.
This heart-rending biography of one of Africa’s legends of contemporary music, is a well-written and fluid account of the life and times of Frank Leepa, the founder, leader and composer of Sankomota. Mpho A. Leepa – Frank Leepa’s younger sister – gives an almost-complete account of her brother’s fulfilled, yet turbulent time in Lesotho, South Africa and Europe. Frank Leepa died on November 27, 2003 after a short illness. Mpho takes us on a journey of this genius – from childhood, to political turmoil of Lesotho, to missing a chance to gig in America for 6-months to their success in South Africa and in Europe. Leepa also outlines her brother’s footsteps with his bands – from Anti-Antiques, to Uhuru and finally Sankomota. This book is an important addition to the understanding of the history of Lesotho and South Africa through music. It is beautifully written and it is a reflection of raw emotions that have been banked by Leepa’s family.
“It is impossible – perhaps even unthinkable – to write one sentence about the history of South Africa; at least from a musical perspective; without glowingly writing about Sankomota, the mighty, incomparable and legendary music band that defined the 1980s and 1990s in southern Africa. To speak of Sankomota is not to speak of a band, but an institution, the cornerstone of struggle politics of Africans in the southern tip of Africa. Born in the glorious kingdom of Lesotho in the 1970s, Sankomota was started – by the young and unassuming yet talented-beyond-myth Francis Mahlomola Leepa – in a high school in Lesotho. The motley collection of his bosom friends – Moss Nkofu, Pitso Sera (a surviving member of the original Frank Leepa’s band) and Motlatsi Mafisa, became one of the best and most important musical bands of our time.” – Afterword, by Phehello Mofokeng