She is one of the few in her generation still alive. And she is convinced there is a reason for this. Dorothy Masuku who lived in the times of some of the world’s celebrated black Africans such as Mirriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe and Hugh Masekela to mention a few still has that aura in her, the passion that very few 79-year-olds would still have.
“When you get to my age, you do not really slow down because I didn’t want to sing, singing wanted me,” said Masuku. Originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, born to a Zimbabwean mother and Zambian father, Masuku is the epitome of what over the years got to be known as township jazz. When she takes to the stage even at rehearsal time she does not want to be disturbed. She looks at the slightest detail and is jumpy when in an interview. She tells Style that she cannot concentrate when she needs to be on stage and like the perfectionist she is, she makes sure that everything is fine tuned.
Then her face lights up when she sees one of the most sought after guitarist in the region, Zakes Gwaze. They first met in the 50s. Gwaze is a guitarist for Ndingo Johwa. She then belts out tunes with ease. It becomes very difficult to match the golden, powerful melodic and audible voice to the grey haired singer as she sings Malaika and Hapo Zamani. Memories of Makeba trickle in and you cannot help but be caught in Mama Africa’s moment as Masuku sings. Ironically, Masuku, who wrote some of the much loved songs by Makeba such as pata pata and although she possessed similar singing qualities as her friend Mama Africa, including the political activism, Masuku never enjoyed much limelight.
It is this legacy that she believes she needs to pass on and one of Botswana’s celebrated female jazz artists, Nnunu Ramogotsi will be fortunate to be under the guidance of the legendary Masuku. Masuku, who speaks highly of Nnunu, says it is important that this young musician is given all the necessary support and is guided properly because she is a good singer, an icon in the region as an African and not just a Motswana. Masuku was in Botswana for a few days at the invitation of Nnunu and graced Nnunu’s 37th birthday bash on Monday evening. While the word diva has been synonymous with celebrated women, she refuses to be called that. “I do not have anyone to compete with.
I am not a diva, I am an icon,” said the ever confident and soft Masuku. Nnunu also hold, Masuku in high regard as one of the musicians that influenced her music. She says her parents grew up listening to her music. “These are people I grew up listening to, the likes of Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela, the list goes on and few of them like Mama Dorothy are still alive hence we need to take this rare opportunity to learn from them and continue their journey,” said Nnunu.