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South African Queens

Today I am thinking about female African pop stars, the ones who inspired and interested me when I was younger. Intrepid women who kicked down doors and destroyed barriers with the power of their vocals.

I am thinking in particular of three South African women who made a special place for themselves in the music industry and in my heart.

“Princess of Africa”

Ask anyone who lived in Africa during the eighties and they will be happy to sing some kind of localized version of Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s song Umqombothi. It is a song about home brewed beermade from sorghum or mealie-meal. It is first and foremost a party song, and I have fond memories of watching the adults get drunk and dance to it at parties when I was a child. It is also about the women who made umqombothi, and ran shebeens (speakeasies) in order to entertain the working men and feed their children in the poverty stricken townships. During Apartheid especially, shebeens were a cultural centre, an oasis of peace hidden from the burning South African sun of oppression.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka grew up under that sun; in fact she was the first black child to ever appear on South African television. When asked who she admired most, Chaka Chaka said

“My mother because she has always been there for me. My mother raised three daughters single-handedly on a domestic workers salary. That took great courage and strength. She is my mentor and hero. When I was born in 1965 in Soweto, it was during apartheid, and those were extremely difficult times. My dad was a great musician who could never realize his dream. He died when I was 11 years old. I inherited my talent from both parents, so music has always been in my blood .When I was little I would strum an empty tin and blow into a broom stick pretending it was a microphone. I sang in church choirs. I loved singing. I am blessed that I achieved my destiny, and been able to accomplish what my father could not.”

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Link Africa

 

From a gallery of images shot by Fred Bunde from the ‘The War is Over’ Campaign.

 

If you find something online that would be of interest to Vuga! readers and contributors, email tips to vugaafrica@gmail.com

“But it brought the noise”

The team behind Okayplayer (including eternally-cooler-than-thou ?uestlove), recently launched Okayafrica, a website exploring Africa’s contemporary music scene. I’m already a fan.

With content on African artists, from internet darlings BLK JKS and Just a Band, to those you may not have heard of like Siji and Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew, I have high hopes that Okayafrica (bringing you true notes since 247,000 BC) is here to stay. They also feature blogs and writing, like this piece wrapping up the 2010 World Cup by Siddhartha Mitter.

In “the Month of Vuvuzelas” Mitter takes on the good, the ugly and the obnoxious of Africa’s first world cup.

Beyond football, the Cup’s effect on the rest of Africa will be incidental – another of those global Africa moments with benefits that are mostly symbolic. If anything, the World Cup may leave Africa more vulnerable, not less, to the simplifying gaze of well-meaning outsiders, such as Belgian photographer Jessica Hilltout, whose images of men and boys in various African countries playing soccer with improvised balls were being shown in a Johannesburg gallery. The photographs are artful, technically strong. Yet Hilltout’s artistic statement – “Africa is a world like no other. Unstructured, disorganised, carefree, monotonous. African people have simple needs and huge hearts. They accept their lot in life with a supreme calmness” – conveys the lazy condescension that afflicts so much of the continent’s treatment by its would-be foreign advocates.

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