Artist Stories, Stories

New Graduate: Mohato Lekena

Mohato grew up in Joburg, and like most young people, wasn’t sure what he wanted to end up doing. When asked the question of his future occupation, he’d reply “an inventor”.

Mohato grew up in Joburg, and like most young people, wasn’t sure what he wanted to end up doing. When asked the question of his future occupation, he’d reply “an inventor”. Now 23, he’s currently finishing up his Masters in Computer Science, as well as working hard to cultivate and contribute to the Cape Town music scene. 

Although it may seem like a small leap at first, the link between his degree and his musical interests is logical, as he explains: “I had always been interested in making music, and this has, as far back as I can remember, been facilitated by computers and software.”

While learning about coding during his Honours in IT, Mohato realised he wanted to make it his focus. He says, “I knew that it was what I wanted. Creating things from scratch in a rapid, boundless manner”. When looking for a topic for his Masters course, he got lucky when Nokia approached him to get involved in their research into mobile music making in Africa. The way he explains it, it seems he couldn’t have found a better fit for a topic; something that fused his passion for music and IT.

“The software that I’m working on is beat sequencer that runs on the Nokia Lumia range. I’m using it to explore how we can get creativity out of people by creating non-standard and non-restricted software.

The main mechanism works by drawing loops, which then become the patterns that make up your beats.”

Mohato’s work with beats extends further. He makes hip-hop inspired electronica under the name Wildebeats, but prefers not to refer to himself as a DJ, as it infuriates the purists in our DJ-saturated society. He adds, “I also try to add in elements from my pool other musical influences, which hopefully takes my music away from being formulaic or too familiar”.

On top of beat making and software developing, Mohato is also one third of glowLDB, a creative collective formed with his flatmates, music graduate Ross Dorkin and interactive media graduate, Robin Brink. The Aperture project is their baby, and their aim is to document and spotlight the music scene in South Africa. In explaining the thinking behind the project, Mohato says, “It’s sad, when I look at a lot of the rap I grew up listening to in Johannesburg a decade ago, none of it is online – it’s like it never happened. I don’t want this to be the case here again”.

It wouldn’t make sense to simplify Mohato to a ‘DJ’, or an ‘app developer’, or a ‘documentarian’. For him, the different aspects of his work are inseparable, and none are more important than the other.

“I write code which creates software for music. I use music software to create beats. I play beats live and am an active member of the electronic scene. While in the scene I take video and put it online with my computer. I feel like the trajectory of design and creativity is changing, fields aren’t siloed off any more and so expertises aren’t separated.”

His ability to combine his different skill sets and interests has left Mohato in a glorious position. He is both far away from his earlier idea of being “an inventor”, as he has honed specific skills in a specific field and yet he is also very near to the idea of ‘an inventor’ in that he hasn’t strictly confined himself to any particular pursuit and has the freedom to work on a wide range of creative projects.

Mohato’s advice for other young people, especially those working in creative fields is this: “collaboration, curiosity and the ability to foster multiple skills and interests are all becoming priceless commodities. Remember that new territory is found by being active, and action is what turns ideas into success.”

Written by Devaksha Vallabhjee for a now-defunct section of Platform called ‘Creation’.


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