Author: Relebohile Phoofolo

Lesotho’s Kome Caves Festival: For the love of beer and music

Every summer, a new energy engulfs Maseru and its surrounding towns. There’s an influx of people who come around for the holiday season, and entertainment is in high demand. Camping chairs and cooler boxes – staple accessories for many Basotho during these months –  are unpacked and get their chance to bask in the Lesotho sun.

The unofficial kickstarter to all summer activities is the Kome Caves Festival, which was held over the weekend. The three-day event blends the outdoors, tourism, cuisine, and beer tasting with musical entertainment. Organised by Tangerine Inc, a boutique marketing and programme management company, it aims to promote the village and attract tourists to the region. Now in its second year, the festival has already improved by leaps and bounds from last year’s inaugural event.

Nestled in Lesotho’s lowlands, Ha Kome and its caves of the same name are etched into a plateau of the Berea Mountains – one of Lesotho’s ten districts. The caves were built in the early 1800s by Chief Teleka and his followers for protection from the cannibals in the surrounding area.  As if painted into the rock, descendants of the Chief still dwell in these caves which offer cool shelter from the November sun; however, one does worry about their warmth during Kome’s cooler nights and Lesotho’s brutal winters.

The majority of people arrived on Saturday and there was a plethora of activities – from horse rides to volleyball and paintball. For those who could stomach the curving dirt road which puts San Francisco’s Lombard Street to shame, there was quad biking too.

Besides the actual caves, the main attractions were the music and the beer. The afternoon’s soundtrack was mellow sets by local DJs which did not detract from the oral sensory overload.

With over 30 types of craft and macro beers mainly from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and including Lesotho’s pride – Maluti Beer, beer lovers were spoiled for choice. The wine tasting stall was a hit this year, and the locally brewed ginger beer, which is the more fermented version of the already popular drink, was a delicious treat even for non-beer lovers. Paired with the various food stalls, attendees were able to enjoy the different beverage offerings well into the night without having to retire early – although for a select few it would have been better if they had.

This year’s musical offering was stupendous from start to finish.

MsKelle, the German-born Mosotho songstress began our musical journey. Just before her set there were few people seated in front of the stage; however, as she sang her first song many began to gather and were mesmerized by the purity of her voice. The sun setting behind the mountains gave her set the added magical touch.

MsKelle. (Pic: Mookho Makheta)
MsKelle. (Pic: Mookho Makheta)

Local Kholu Jazz Band, better known as the band for Lesotho Jazz legend Budaza, who gave a beautiful performance on Sunday, followed with a more up-tempo performance.

Wearing a mokorotlo, the traditional Basotho hat, with a metallic shield covering his face, and with dance moves straight out of the Karate Kid, DJ InviZable gave one of the night’s more memorable performances.

DJInviZable (Pic: Mookho Makheta)
DJ InviZable (Pic: Mookho Makheta)

Mozambican group Gran’Mah was another pleasant surprise – not many knew of them before their performance, but they left with a solid fan base by the end of their set. The “reggae fusion” band was fun to watch, and had many people dancing to their dub-inspired tunes. And, even though he was set to perform later that night, Pedro from 340ml blessed the stage for a collaboration.

340ml gave the crowd something a little different from their regular performances. This time Rui and Thiago replaced their guitars for some turntables, and Pedro belted out some of their popular tracks, leaving the crowd wanting more.

However, the musical highlight, and the reason most people came to the event, was to see the USA-based international touring act Tortured Soul. By the time of their set, the warm day had turned into a bitterly cold night. They played as if the cold air was part of their magical spell. The audience was transfixed  by their performance; they swayed and sang along in awe, many in disbelief that their beloved Tortured Soul was right here in their country.

Tortured Soul (Pic: Mookho Makheta)
Tortured Soul (Pic: Mookho Makheta)

And as the cup of coffee to end off a great musical meal, Lesotho’s hip-hop collective D2amajoe closed the show in front of some of their more loyal fans and those who stuck around to brave the cold weather.

The evening eventually turned to dawn, camp chairs were folded, now emptied cooler boxes were carried off to the camp sites, and the courageous few who decided to make the drive up the curved dirt road returned to warmer destinations. One thing was clear: they were already plotting their return to next year’s festival.