Three Women Who Have Greatly Influenced South Africa through Their Music


August is a celebration of women’s rights in South Africa. Throughout the country’s history, women have played a significant role in creating change. The powerful spirit of these women has inspired many people around the world and for Women’s Day we honour three icons who have had a great impact on South Africa through their music.

Image: Michael Ochs

Miriam Makeba

Affectionately known throughout the world as ‘Mama Africa’, the late Zenzile Miriam Makeba made use of her musical art to reflect the oppression of black South Africans during apartheid South Africa. She was a pioneer in exposing African music to the global space during the 1960s and a civil rights activist against the struggle. The legendary Makeba was in exile for more than 30 years, performing around the world with eminent artists. During her career she released classic hits such as "Pata Pata", "The Click Song" and "Mayibuye".

Brenda Fassie

The ‘Queen of African Pop’ used her musical platform to tell stories of black people in the townships during the apartheid system. The late Fassie was a relatable and unapologetic artist who also sang about her personal experiences without censorship. Although she had a controversial reputation throughout her career, Brenda Fassie was still an icon for truly representing her people and speaking out on issue affecting them. With hits such as "Black President" and "Weekend Special", Fassie had success internationally and helped create a musical culture for South African artists today.

Image: Malick Sidibe

Thandiswa Mazwai

Mazwai is known for creating music which reflects upon the effects of South Africa’s past on contemporary society and focusing on issues being faced by the youth as a result. She has encouraged black consciousness among young South Africans, inspiring conversations on self-empowerment and identity. Mazwai has performed throughout the world and has won numerous awards acknowledging her role as an activist. She is known for classic and thought-provoking such as "Nizalwa Ngobani" and "Zabalaza".

Credits:

Writing: Sesona Mahlahla

#MirriamMakeba #BrendaFassie #ThandiswaMazwai