Khuli Chana featuring JR
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.”
- “We don’t know you, but we know that we can help you.”
- “From humble beginnings in 1991 in Lusaka, where the business started as an abattoir and two butcher shops, Zambeef is now a $200-million-a-year company”
- “Safety is relative. And, I and my partner are gay in a country where we are considered demon possessed sell-outs. No, I love this little nation state of ours. Wont exchange it for any other. Not voluntarily, and even then, I would make anyone forcing me to pay. I guess we are as safe as we can be”
- “What better evidence can there be of Africa’s burgeoning potential as a consumer market than Walmart’s desire for a foothold on the continent?”
- Alternately: “Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which claims to represent nearly 2 million workers, referred to Wal-Mart as “one of the worst and stubbornly anti-union companies in the world.” “
- Forcing those who would rather not to recognize you is the ultimate in revolution, a revolution from non-existence to being. And that’s just what the residents of Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, have done. Under a project they’ve called Map Kibera, they’ve publicly mapped a home the government previously depicted as wild forest (the meaning of the slum’s name) and put it online.
If you find something online that would be of interest to Vuga! readers and contributors, email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
Promotional still from the upcoming movie “Winnie”
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.
This photos was taken by Fabienne K. while she was visiting the Southern Drakensberg somewhere in the no-man’s land between South Africa and Lesotho.
It is beautiful, and beautiful things should be shared.
You can see more pictures in the Vuga! Flickr feed
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