Current listening: Dorothy Masuka “Hapo Zamani”

1950s South Africa. In a township somewhere people are sipping redbush tea on a bright green lawn in front of a single storey whitewashed house with a red rusted corrugated iron roof and this track by “Auntie Dorothy” is playing in the background.

Dorothy Masuka was born in Bulawayo Zimbabwe in 1935, the fourth of seven children, and moved to South Africa with her family when she was 12. She had always been a talented singer and became interested in American jazz such as Louis Jordan and then the South African music scene when Dolly Rathebe became popular. She left school at 16 against her familys wishes to join Philemon Mogotse’s African Ink Spots as a singer. She returned to school only briefly before leaving again permanently for the world of music. By the age of 20 she had toured South Africa with the African Jazz and Variety revue, including many singers and musicians whom she had admired as a child. She was a magazine pin-up girl and gossip magazine fixture, the Britney of her day, and she became one of the most famous township singers in 1950s South Africa, alongside her friend Miriam Makeba. Most of her most famous jazz inflected marabi tunes were written by her,  with her signature tune being “Hamba Notsokolo”. 

In 1961 she had to leave South Africa and Zimbabwe due to the fact that the political nature of some of her songs was attracting the unwelcome attention of the authorities. After returning to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe in 1965 she had to leave again, facing the prospect of arrest. She did not return to her adopted hometown Johannesburg and music until 1992, and spent many years of her exile as an air hostess on Zambian Airways, as well as working in Malawi and Tanzania and spending time in London .  Now hers is an autobiography I would love to read. A compilation of songs from throughout her career “The Definitive Collection” was released in 2002. A fuller biography can be found here.

This swinging tune is another one which sends me to another time and another place.  Been listening to it lots this week and it’s lovely.


One Response to “Current listening: Dorothy Masuka “Hapo Zamani””

  1. thegreatgrapeape Says:

    Heeeeeeeere’s Dorothy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: