Eulogies Flow For A Golden Voice That Challenged Apartheid

Mama Dorothy Masuka

A baobab tree has fallen with the passing of a one-of-a-kind musician.

Those were the words spoken of the legendary Mama Dorothy Masuka by South African Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

She was hailed alongside her friend, the late veteran star Miriam Makeba, for using music to highlight the plight of South Africans during the apartheid era.

Mama Masuka was born and raised in Zimbabwe. At the age of 12 her family emigrated to South Africa where her golden voice was noticed by the record label Troubadour. Not long after, she was invited to join Philemon Mogotsi’s African Ink Spots in Durban, and later, in Zimbabwe, the Golden Rhythm Crooners.

It was the dawn of the great flowering of urban African culture in South Africa in the early 1950s.

Mama Masuka’s great promise as a singer and songwriter became apparent when she penned and recorded Hamba Nontsokolo. The song was among the most popular in the 1950s. Masuka began to tour with The Harlem Swingsters and Dolly Rathebe in the mid-1950s.

She gained fame in South Africa when her song (Prime Minister) ‘Dr Malan’ about the segregationist laws of the National Party caught the attention of the apartheid government, which banned it. She also released ‘Patrice Lumumba’, a song about the 1961 execution of the first prime minister of independent DRC. The release led to her 31-year exile in Zambia.

Later, she traveled into Malawi and Tanzania where she championed the independence cause in Africa.

She returned to Zimbabwe in 1981 after independence and became a professional singer and only returned to South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela.

Music reviewer Kgomotso Moncho called her one of the most important singers and composers of her generation, writing some of the biggest hits of that decade.

She was inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame in 2002 which recognized her contribution to South Africa’s vast canon of music. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa called Mama Masuka’s passing a significant loss to the cultural heritage of South Africa and the continent. Masuka died on Feb. 23 at the age of 83.

Source: Global Information Network

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