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March 18, 2019

Dorothy Masuka – Phata On


3 September 1935 – 23 February 2019

Africa lost one of her lyrical daughters with the passing of Dorothy Masuka on 23 February 2019. She was 83 and she lived well.

The jazz artist, songwriter and activist was a powerhouse. She taught at Boston University and wrote and recorded music right to the end. Her latest album, Nginje, was released in 2018 – Another great contribution to African music.

Ms Masuka, born in Southern Rhodesia – the illegitimate daughter of a Zulu mother and a Zambian chef – regarded herself more African than South African.

Every Friday and Saturday Night
It’s Pata Pata time
The dance keeps going all night long
Til’ the morning sun begins to shine

Translation of a sort from a version of Pata Pata/Phata Phata.

Did Masuka actually write Pata Pata, made famous by Miriam Makeba? Does it matter? Africans from all cultures have a long history of taking a throw-away, adding value, and making it their own. Is a song different from any other fabric that holds people together across borders, differences and cultures? I don’t think so.

Masuka told us that she continued to speak to Makeba, thinking of her as “Big Sister” – years after Makeba had passed away. Makeba, along with other South African greats like Hugh Masekela and Thandiswa Mazwai, covered her songs.

The African jazz icon saw herself as more of a trio than one person, a singer, mother and politician.

School fees – those days, Catholics looked after people the right way

Dorothy Masuka, like many people moulded by unique and troubled times in Africa, mellowed with time. Her songs, like the stories of many everyday people, matured and evolved with age and wisdom – from political to poetic.

“Masuka’s passing is a great loss to the cultural heritage of South Africa and the continent.” President Ramaphosa.

“If you stop me singing I will die”

Sources: Miriam mentions Dorothy and sings her composition ‘Kulala’ during her performance recorded on the CD En Public a Paris et Conakry.

Featured image is from Ms Masuka’s southafricanmusicprofiles here

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