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Five South African musical greats we’ll always miss – Massive Music

11 September 2019
Our music is intrinsically intertwined with our heritage.
Massive music September feature

This Heritage Month –  Heritage Day falls on 24 September –  is a chance for us to throw-back to a few of South Africa’s musical legends. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today, immersed in a thriving and invigorating music industry.

Miriam Makeba (Mama Africa)

Born: 4 March 1932 in Johannesburg
Died: 9 November 2008 in Italy
Why we love her:

  • Makeba sang in an all-women group called the Skylarks. They combined jazz with African melodies.
  • She was the female lead in the smash hit musical King Kong (1959) written by Todd Matshikiza. It was billed as an “All African jazz opera” and lived up to its name.
  • She and her King Kong co-star, Hugh Masekela, married in 1964 but divorced two years later.
  • Makeba spoke out against apartheid when she twice addressed the United Nations. 
  • With ‘Pata Pata’, she became the first black woman to have a top ten worldwide hit.

Hugh Masekela
Composer, singer, trumpeter, and more

Born: 4 April 1939 in Witbank
Died: 23 January 2018
Why we love him:

  • Anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston encouraged him to play the trumpet and it changed his life forever.
  • In 1960, when he was 21, he began his 30 year exile from South Africa.
  • According to the biography on his website, “his solo career has spanned five decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba”.
  • In 2010, he received a National Order, the Order of Ikhamanga for his phenomenal achievements in arts and music.
  • “My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are,” he once said.

Johnny Clegg
Singer, songwriter, dancer and activist

Born: 7 June 1953 in England
Died: 16 July 2019 in South Africa
Why we love him:

  • The French have nicknamed him Le Zulu Blanc, the white Zulu.
  • His crossover music has sold over five million albums over a period of three decades.
  • He featured in all of the Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids Awareness Concerts in South Africa and in Norway. During one of these performances, Mandela surprised him on stage as he sang Asimbonanga, a song about the struggle icon and other liberation heroes.

Brenda Nokuzola Fassie
Pop singer

Born: 3 November 1964 in Langa
Died: 9 May 2004 in Johannesburg
Why we love her:

  • Brenda started singing at a young age, and as a five-year-old she was singing/busking for tourists. Her first band was called Tiny Tots.
  • ‘Weekend Special’ was her first recording in 1983 and at the time, became the fastest selling record.
  • Her album, Memeza, released in 1998 won her numerous South African Music Awards (SAMAs).
  • She was dubbed “The Madonna of the Townships” in a feature in Time magazine.

Lucky Dube
Reggae musician

Born: 3 August 1964 near Ermelo
Died: 18 October 2007 in Johannesburg
Why we love him:

  • Dube’s career spanned an impressive 25 years and he became the country’s biggest selling reggae musician.
  • He recorded over 20 albums in various languages such as English, isiZulu, and Afrikaans.
  • His first reggae album, Rasta Never Die was banned from radio airplay by the apartheid government.
  • Dube’s second album, Think About the Children reached gold record status.

Keep it real with #MassiveMusicSA every Friday at 21:30 on Mzansi Magic.