Dorothy Masuka

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Musician and Singer

First name: 
Dorothy
Last name: 
Masuka
Date of birth: 
3 September 1935
Location of birth: 
Zimbabwe

Dorothy Masuka was born and raised in Zimbabwe. A talent scout discovered her when she sang in a school concert and immediately she signed up as Troubadour. By the time she was sixteen, Dorothy had become a top recording star and after running away from school several times, she was released. She left for Johannesburg by train and it was during this journey that she composed the song Hamba Nontsokolo that launched her career as a professional musician and has since been regarded as a classic in South Africa. 

Dorothy’s status as top pin-up and glamour girl in South Africa soon started to pose as a challenge to the likes of Dolly Rathebe, and she became the principal star in Alf Herbet’s African Jazz and Variety show. A lot of Dorothy’s performances were as a soloist accompanied by close-harmony groups and other big bands that featured in the 1950s. By composing her own songs that were inspired by events occurring in the South African townships in the 1950s, she provided a lot of insight into socio-political issues of township life. It was as result of this commentary that she left South Africa abruptly.

In 1961 she traveled into Malawi and Tanzania and through her musical talents she became the champion of the independence cause in Africa. She then traveled to London and stayed in Kensington, but people in the U.K. were not interested in African music. She performed whenever possible and played at the London Palladium and at Wimbledon, after this stint she returned to Zimbabwe. Dorothy’s life was threatened while living in what was then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) as a result of her political affiliations, and as life became too dangerous, she fled to Zambia. In Zambia Dorothy’s musical career took a backseat and she worked as an airhostess, while raising a family. After sixteen years in exile she returned to Zimbabwe in 1981, after their independence. She became a professional singer once again and only returned to South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela. She currently lives is Johannesburg with her grandchildren and has recently released an album.

Last updated : 08-Aug-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011