WOMEN’S MONTH FEATURE: CELEBRATING WOMEN IN MUSIC
In South Africa, women have played a key role in music and showcased their strength and resilience even in the face of adversity.From the fearless generation of the 50s all the way to the generation that helped shape post-apartheid culture.
This month, SAMRO celebrates our women in the music industry. We cannot mention them all by name, but we recognise and applaud their efforts and the key role they continue to play in the industry.
Dorothy Masuku: In 1961 the apartheid special branch forces confiscated her master recording of the song Lumumba dedicated to Patrice Lumumba, the first democratic president of the Congo. She was not deterred and she went on to record Dr Malan, a song denigrating the apartheid laws - it was also banned. It came as no surprise when she was given the "Excellent Achievement Award, in and Contribution to, Music Composition and Performance” in 1999by the late President Nelson Mandela. She was also inducted into the American Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2013, she celebrated her 60 year anniversary in the music industry and she was the first recipient of the Wawela Lifetime Achievement Award.
Letta Mbulu: This world renowned songstress was one of the many musicians who were forced to take exile in the United States where jazz mirrored racial injustices, drawing parallels with South Africa. She was involved in soundtracks of motion pictures such as Roots, Colour Purple and A Warm December. The SAMAs honoured her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 and she also received a series of honorary degrees from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the University of Cape Town(UCT).
Rebecca Malope: She won the Best Vocalist prize in the Shell Road to Fame and has gone on to win more awards than any other gospel singer in South Africa. Although not her best -selling album, her collaboration with Wawela Music Award winning composer and producer Sizwe Zako on her first record made way for future success and she went on to record 32 albums and win more than 25 awards over a career that has spanned 27 years. Malope has her own studio where she writes and produces most of her music.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka: She is one of the first black performers to appear on South African television in 1981 and has built a name for herself over the years. In addition to the exemplary role she has played in music, Chaka Chaka is a philanthropist and business woman par excellence who runs a successful music production and promotions business and has her own record label. She is UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador against malaria and plays an active role in campaigning for medications and bed nets. Chaka Chaka has also served as an ambassador for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Campaign as well as an ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
Penelope Jane Dunlop: Otherwise known as PJ Powers, she took a stand for unity and the apartheid government banned her for a year in 1988 for performing at a benefit concert for orphans in Zimbabwe. Nelson Mandela wrote to her from prison urging her on. Songs such as Feel So Strong, Home to Africa and Jabulani cemented her appeal bridging the gap between the races in a marginalised society.
Nhlanhla Nciza: She burst onto the scene as vocalist is the group, Mafikizolo, alongside Theo Kgosinkwe. Her star appeal has made her the first South African female entertainer to grace the cover of Forbes Africa Woman and she has scooped all awards known to the local music industry.
Zahara: In the past three years the singer - songwriter and poet has made great strides in the music scene. Armed with a guitar and a great voice, her debut album, Loliwe, scaled dizzy heights, selling more than 100 000 copies. Before her, only the late Brenda Fassie had achieved that kind of success. To date, she has sold more than 400 000 records.
Karen Zoid: Her road to fame began in 2001 when she swapped university studies for a career in music. Following the release of her first album, Poles Apart, Zoid developed quite a following, prompting music industry critics to dub her listeners the “Zoid generation”. She has since released five albums – the last under her very own production company – Karen Zoid Productions. She is a SAMA Award winner and has performed in front of both local and international live audiences.