Jonas Gwangwa remembers Dorothy Masuka as a gentle human being.
“She was nice but didn’t take any nonsense. I met her at the Bantu Men Social Centre on Eloff Street. A whole lot of musicians met there. She came there once, and again when we got Dorkay House, which became the real centre for musicians,” said Gwanga.
The 83-year-old singer, songwriter, jazz performer, composer and recipient of the National Order of Ikhamanga passed away on Saturday after a battle with hypertension since July last year.
Her hits included the popular Hamba Nontsokolo, MaGumede and Khauleza.
— Mme a Masakona (@FloMasebe) February 23, 2019
Gwangwa had listened to her music before officially meeting the jazz great in the 1950s.
“We would rent a speaker for five shillings a month and play music. The hit of hers then was Nontsokolo and she was quite young, fresh from school.”
Masuka was one of the lead voices of the African Jazz and Variety ensemble put together by artist manager Alfred Herbert. The ensemble including Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Sonny Pillay, Ben “Satch” Masinga and the Woodpeckers. Masuka was the youngest voice to join the group.
Gwangwa said their friendship grew from then on. They performed together on many other shows and collaborated on music, as Masuka was a talented songwriter and composer.
She wrote the popular Hapo Zamani and composed a lot of other music for Makeba.
“The last show we performed together was when we were doing a tribute to all the legends last year and she had a mild stroke.”
That show was the Mandela centenary music special that featured Masuka, Abigail Kubeka and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
RIP Dorothy Masuku ♥️🙏🏾 your music will comfort us. Sending love and prayers to your family. pic.twitter.com/zbW2Zx79gE
— Mmabatho Montsho (@MmabathoMontsho) February 24, 2019
“When she had a stroke during the rehearsals we wheel-chaired her onto the stage for the first performance because she insisted she wanted to sing and perform,” said Mabuse.
“South Africans are privileged to have artists like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Mama Doti (Masuka), Jonas Gwangwa, Ray Phiri and the likes.”
Mabuse said Masuka’s career spoke for itself. “It was a privilege to do the legends project with her. It is sad but celebratory; her legacy lives on forever through her music.”
— Bonang Matheba (@BonangMfanClub) February 23, 2019
Singer Khanyo Maphumulo said she would never forget Masuka’s strength. “Even when you could see she was frail, she was always emotionally strong.
“The one thing that touched me and remains with me until today is when she told the band we were performing with at the Winnie Mandela funeral that she was giving me her name. She said she was calling me Dorothy because she could see I was following in her footsteps”
Maphumulo said the loss was devastating because she felt Masuka was still needed, especially by the youth of the country.
Hilda Tloubatla, of the Mahotella Queens, said the path Masuka set for her and other musicians was profound.
“Mama Dorothy was one of the first top musicians of our country. We look up to them to this day.”
Family spokesperson Fortune Hute said the family would release details of a memorial service during the week.