in today’s post I want to highlight the work and the voice of a truly great South African singer who had her share of success but who also suffered from bad luck and discrimination. The tragic story of “Lady Africa”, Margaret Singana.
Her biggest hits are the uptempo boogie tracks ‘Where Is The Love’ and ‘We Are Growing’ and I guess that not many people will be familiar with the soul side of this versatile singer.
Just listen to ‘Cry To Me’ and ‘Stand By Your Man’, both sung in a deep heart-felt bluesy voice and backed by equally great musicians. Margaret Singana delivers and knows how to make these standards her own.
Her irrestible singing style was influenced by American R&B, deep Southern Soul, Black Gospel & Disco. Her vocal abilities can stand the test with those of Candi Staton and even Aretha Franklin, America’s First Lady of Gospel & Soul. But it’s Margaret Singana’s spirit and voice from deep within that defines the moment and accentuates her African roots.
Margaret Singana was born Margaret M’cingana in Queenstown in 1938 . As a teenager she went to Johannesburg to look for work in the music industry. She became the first black artist to feature on the white-dominated Radio 5 hit parade. Her version of “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You” became a local hit. But due to strict laws for black inhabitants of South Africa she did not succeed to break through and she became a domestic worker, victimized by the ruthless Apartheid’s regime. Her employer however discovered her musical talent and introduced her to a record company.
Margaret Singana’s big moment came in 1973 with the release of ‘The Warrior called Ipi ‘N Tombia’, a reworking of the musical Ipi ‘N Tombi written by Bertha Egnos and her daughter, lyricist Gail Lakier.
See also my previous posts hey sista, go sista, soul sista -Township Soul & Boogie Vol 2 and SA movies -1965 OST ‘Dingaka’ by Bertha Egnos
In the following years, she released several other albums in South Africa, mostly produced by Patric Van Blerk which were a success in her homeland, but her performances in Europe yielded. Margaret Singana was nicknamed ‘Lady Africa’. In 1978 she had a stroke, but she recovered and came back. In the mid ’80s, she sang “We Are Growing”, the title song of the television series Shaka Zulu. This song became a No. 1 hit in the Netherlands a few years later. The Dutch released 12″ of Shaka Zulu ‘We Are Growing’ contains the original version, the extended remix and a song that is quite special for Margaret Singana as she sings in her native language isiXhosa, not in English. ‘Hamba Bekhile’ is a traditional song that women sing after brewing beer when they pass the calabash around the thirsty men to sample the brew. It’s also the name of an album that was released in 1978
But that hit was to be her final bow and the woman affectionately dubbed ‘Lady Africa’ died largely forgotten in 2000 at the age of 63, crippled and bound to a wheelchair and in a financial situation unfitting a star appropriately.
Let her music and spirit live on.
sources; wikipedia and http://www.rock.co.za