Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exile on Main Street: Dorothy Masuka and "Zoo Lake"

Zoo Lake by Dorothy Masuka on Grooveshark

Megan and I are still on our anniversary trip in Taos, New Mexico, so this will be a short post. Zoo Lake by Dorothy Masuka was recorded during her years of exile from South Africa. It hardly seems like it, but when I was in college, apartheid and South Africa was a huge issue, bringing college students out to protests as demands grew for US businesses to divest from South Africa, despite the fact that the Reagan administration was committed to propping up its South African government ally. Ultimately, business led the way to divestment, which forced the South African government to end apartheid, but not after the long hard work and sacrifices and matrydoms of activists and political leaders in South Africa paved the way.

Dorothy Masuka is jazz singer born in southern Rhodesia in 1935. Of mixed Zulu and Zambian heritage, her health necessitated a move to South Africa in 1947. She began singing, and by 19 she was touring South Africa with singers she admired as a girl. In the 1950s, she was a very popular singer, but then her songs began to take a more serious turn, and in the 1960s the South African government began to pay more attention and bring her in for questioning. Some of her songs were banned, and a song about Patrice Lumumba led to her 31 year exile. Masuka sings in both the Ndebele and Sindebele languages. This song, Zoo Lake, was made in London during her exile and can be found on the compilation album London is the Place for Me 4.