Something old, something new

When it comes to South African music royalty, you won’t find a much more celebrated star than Dorothy Masuka.

This becomes clear after a quick glance at the guests who feature on her new DVD release, Dorothy Masuka Live at the Mandela Theatre (Gallo).

Hugh Masekela, Caiphus Semenya, Abigail Kubeka, Sibongile Khumalo and Thandiswa Mazwai are hardly lightweight stars of South African music themselves, but they all turned up to celebrate the work and career of Masuka.

Born in Bulawayo in the then Rhodesia in 1935, Masuka moved to South Africa at the age of 12. She showed a love of music at an early age and it was no surprise that at the age of 16 she ran away to Durban to join Philemon Mogotsi’s African Ink Spots.
By the age of 20, Masuka was a star appearing on magazine covers and touring the country.

It wasn’t just her voice that appealed to fans, however; she had also begun to write some great songs with political themes that earned her the ire of the apartheid security police and led to her having to flee South Africa in the 1960s.

Masuka initially moved to Bulawayo, but had to flee that country too and spent 31 years in exile in Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe after Rhodesia’s independence in 1980.

Dorothy Masuka Live at the Mandela Theatre was filmed during a concert in late 2009 and the reaction of the crowd, which is dancing, singing and clapping by the end of the show, illustrates the love there still is for this star of South African music.

Highlights include Kanyange, a bluesy number sung by Semenya and Masuka, and Khawuleza, a song that features Masekela on vocals and trumpet.

The interplay between the stars is charming and the audience responds to the intimate atmosphere, showing vocal appreciation for the performance.

Other highlights include Kulala and Umakhumalo, which Masuka and Mazwai sing together and Ei Yow Phata Phata, which Masuka reminds the audience she recorded a few years before Miriam Makeba recorded the Pata Pata of international fame.

All up it is a great DVD, paying tribute to one of South Africa’s finest singers and songwriters.

Thandiswa Mazwai

Another recent DVD release is Thandiswa Mazwai’s Dance of the Forgotten Free (Gallo), which captures a show that Mazwai and her band put together at Carnival City.

The show is heavily loaded with material from her second album, Ibokwe, with a few items included from her award-winning debut album Zabalaza.

Since she left kwaito pioneer Bongo Maffin, Mazwai has risen to the top of South Africa’s music industry, winning herself a dedicated fan base.
The opening few songs start off a little shakily, but by the time Mazwai hits the sixth track, Abenguni, she has really hit her stride.

Ngimkhonzile, which features her daughter Malaika Mazwai reading the Freedom Charter, is a memorable funk tune, even if the idea doesn’t quite translate as a live performance, and Vana Vevhu (Funk Afrika) is a great track that is slightly ruined by some rather boring spoken-word poetry from Mazwai’s sister, Ntsiki Mazwai.

Luckily, the tunes are fantastic, even if the guest family members detract from the overall feel. Ndilinde is a highlight, featuring Tshepo Tshola, who looks as though he is having the time of his life on stage.

Heathen is another great performance, a Bob Marley cover that Mazwai dedicated to Busi Mhlongo, the late South African artist who seems to have had the most influence on Mazwai.

Bongo Maffin fans will also delight at the reuniting of the band on stage as it performs Thath Isgubhu.

Although Dance of the Forgotten Free is not without its faults, it is an enjoyable experience and Mazwai’s fans will, no doubt, lap it up.

Both DVDs are available separately on CD as live albums.

Lloyd Gedye

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