Media statement: Foundation mourns the loss of music icon Dorothy Masuka
Date: 26 February 2019
From: Nelson Mandela Foundation
We at the Nelson Mandela Foundation mourn the passing of one South Africa’s legendary jazz singers, Dorothy Masuka. We send our heartfelt condolences to Mam’Masuka’s family, friends and her legion of fans throughout the world. Hamba kahle and rest in peace.
Mam’Masuka’s music was part of the fabric of Nelson Mandela’s life in the 1950s. They renewed their acquaintance once he was freed from prison and she had returned to South Africa after years of exile in Zambia and her home country, Zimbabwe.
Recalling a joyful period from September 1955 when his banning order had expired and he took a road trip around the country, Madiba wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, about listening to the radio as he drove. “While I despised the conservative politics of Radio Bantu served up by the government-run South African Broadcasting Corporation, I revelled in its music.”
On what he called a “fact-finding mission” to talk to activists around South Africa, he listened to the SABC’s “Rediffusion Service”, which played the music of Dorothy Masuka, Miriam Makeba and others. “I enjoy all types of music, but the music of my own flesh and blood goes right to my heart,” he wrote. “The curious beauty of African music is what uplifts even as it tells a sad tale. You may be poor, you may have only a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope.”
In August 2008 Mam’Masuka was in the line-up at a concert in Johannesburg to mark Madiba’s 90th year. And one of her last major performances was at the funeral of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 2018.
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