Dorothy Masuka left a ‘lasting impression’ on humble home soil
Zim township residents remember hours of rehearsal with the singer, her return from exile and her departure for SA
In one of the oldest townships of Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe, there is a neighborhood that takes pride in the exploits of late jazz crooner Dorothy Masuka, who was born and raised here in a humble home. Masuka, who succumbed to a stroke at the age of 83, is known to the people of Old Pumula township by her birth name Masuku, and not Masuka. She was born the fourth child in a family of seven, and her family home is one of the most dilapidated in the area.
Resident Simiso Moyo said the home had been through the hands of many tenants while Masuka lived in SA and Zambia.
“She last visited this place three years ago. But whenever she came she would visit the homes where she knew families. I have been a vendor across the road from the house for about a decade and those few moments she came, she left a lasting impression,” said Simiso Moyo.
One of her old friends in Old Pumula is Busi Mpofu, who first met Masuka in 1981 at a wedding in the township. Masuka had just returned from 31 years in exile. Her song Dr Malan, criticising apartheid laws, had been banned, causing her to flee to Zambia, where her father was from.
“She had just came back home when I first met her in 1981. We spent a lot of time together and from time to time I would sit in on her practice sessions. Her local pal in music was Pupali (Ben Gumbo) of the Cool Crooners. They would rehearse for hours and I liked the way she complimented Pupali’s guitar. She laughed every time we imitated her jokingly, saying we were better than her,” said Mpofu.
Masuka later returned to SA, and the visits to Zimbabwe became less frequent. When her younger sister died one of her tenants started renting the entire house.
Rebecca Mususa, 46, arrived in Bulawayo in 1998 and has been renting Masuka’s home until now. “I didn’t know who she was because we used to pay rentals to her late sister. When she passed on we got to rent the full house and that’s when I got to know about Sis D (Dorothy). She was an easygoing landlord. We could go for months without paying rent and she would tell us to give her whatever we had when she passed by in Bulawayo,” said Mususa.
On some weekends, the Old Pumula Beer Garden, which is 300m from the house, is home to session musicians who entertain patrons with jazz music. Say Band, owned by Mathius Ziyambi, a music promoter who worked with Masuka from time to time, often plays her music. The band’s lead singer, Sikhulile Madonko, shared the stage with Masuka whenever she visited Bulawayo.
“I was a back-up singer for her here and there. She loved our music and would always insist on putting extra hours in the craft,” said Madonko.
The people from Old Pumula learnt about her death in the media, and wish they could do something to honour her.
The last tribute to her in her city of birth was in 2016, when she was awarded the Order of Mzilikazi by the Bulawayo Jazz and Heritage Trust.