PJ Powers, the white ‘girl’ with black blood


SOUTH African musician, PJ Powers, is the white ‘girl’ with black blood flowing in her veins. This year, the beloved musician turns 55, and if the truth should be said, it would be a befitting honour for South Africa to join her in the celebrations because of her contribution to the country’s fight for independence through the medium of music.

Although she might be silent these days, the role she played as an artiste in denouncing apartheid in South Africa cannot be understated to the extent that the late founding president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, showered plaudits on her for her outstanding role.

NO white South African female musician has been so dear to the hearts of the black South Africans than this renowned diva.

This saw her being christened with an African name, “Thandeka”, meaning the beloved one because of her stance in the advocacy for black people’s rights through her music.

PJ Powers stood out from the rest of her fellow white South African counterparts who believed that they were superior to other races – especially blacks, whom they despised.

Songs like “Feel So Strong”, on which she collaborated with another South African music icon, Steve Kekana in 1983, “You’re So Good to Me” released in 1982, the 1986 gem “There is an Answer”, “Home to Africa”, and “Jabulani” were all laden with messages of hope, peace, love, unity and encouragement that South Africans, despite their different races, would make it as a Rainbow Nation.

But this riled the apartheid system which believed that she was inciting black South Africans to take their struggle further, something they indeed proceeded to do leading to the attainment of the country’s independence in 1994.

Her influence also spilled into neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe where she took part in a concert to fundraise for people who were orphaned by the war for liberation in Zimbabwe.

But as expected, she further stepped on the sore feet of the apartheid regime in her country leading to the ban of her music on the airwaves.

Word reached Nelson Mandela who was in prison then that the apartheid masters were determined by all means to derail the struggle for freedom by stifling artistes like PJ Powers and this prompted Mandela to smuggle a letter addressed to her in which he said she should maintain her resolve.

PJ Powers has always been involved at national and international levels as an artiste, something which the crop of new artistes in that country should emulate.

She believed that by taking an active role in relevant issues, that alone is one way that results and goals can be achieved.

That is why – together with Ladysmith Black Mambazo – she did the song 

“World in Union” which was the theme song for the Rugby World Cup which was hosted by South Africa in 1995.

As the title suggests, the song talked about people of the world coming together for their own good through sport.

No wonder she was the choice performer at ceremonies for personalities, celebrities, royalty and politicians like Queen Elizabeth, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands as well as Nelson Mandela at his installation as president of the republic in 1995.

She prides herself in African roots, having been born in Durban, KwaZulu Natal on July 16, 1960. 

Some of the big names she has shared the stage with include Miriam Makeba, Eric Clapton, Hugh Masekela, Richard E. Grant and Janet Suzman, among others.

April 2015
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