MASERU — Local gospel artists are up in arms after they were scratched from this year’s edition of the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival.
The absence of individual gospel artists and their bands will see choral music groups returning to the festival for the first time in eight years.
Festival director Thabo Leanya told Xpress People a tight budget had forced them to drop the gospel artists this year.
The choral music groups filling up the gap will perform free of charge, he said.
“The festival on Sunday will see a new slot called Sounds of Pray featuring about six choral and church choirs alongside Banna le Bahlankana,” Leanya said.
“There will be no individual gospel artist lined up but this session will bring the same spark that individual gospel artists brought in the past.”
He said they were struggling to fund the gospel slot, traditionally held on Sundays, until choirs volunteered to host the “Sounds of Pray” at their expense.
“We booted out choral music sessions in 2002 and for eight years they have been sidelined, but they decided to bounce back by volunteering to hold their own festival within the 2010 Morija festival,” Leanya said.
“Because they met us halfway, we are going to help them print the tickets and cater for their transport and food while they share the gate-takings among themselves.”
Lesotho Music Rights Association public relations officer Ramosa Bosiu said they were not amused by the development.
Bosiu, a gospel artist, said they were not happy that the Morija festival organisers did not involve the association in planning for the gala.
“The association tried in numerous occasions to set up a meeting with the festival’s organising committee so that we could be involved in selecting performers but we were surprised they were not keen to involve us,” he said.
“It got worse when we inquired about the line-up of artists for all the music sessions when we learnt that gospel had been booted out.
“I don’t know who we were talking to over the phone but the gentleman told us: ‘Sorry but there will not be any gospel session because it was not budgeted for as it is not making any profit for the festival.”
Bosiu threatened unspecified action against the festival organisers for snubbing their association.
“We are angered by the way the Morija festival has been handled and if they continue to sideline local artists and not involve the association we will take major actions,” he said.
The Econet Telecom Morija Arts and Cultural Festival is set for October 28 to 31 at Morija, 45 kilometres south of Maseru.