Yvonne Chaka Chaka

| March 11, 2011

Yvonne Chaka Chaka1Africa loves to celebrate her entertainment icons. But, we love to celebrate those who fight selflessly for the masses even more. When Yvonne Chaka Chaka first burst onto the music scene in South Africa, she immediately became a star across the African continent. From hits like “Thank You Mr. DJ to “Umqombothi” she was heard, and South Africa’s voice was heard. Many of us shimmied our young teenaged hips to her tunes and learned to love and adore her. A lot has changed since her singing days. For starters, many of us who grew up on Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s music are all grown up now. Ms. Chaka Chaka herself has also grown a lot since then, and her heart has gotten larger too. It is for this reason that she is our ReMarkable Woman for the quarter!

While Ms. Chaka Chaka still uses her voice to influence and shape the lives of others, she is using it in a whole new way. She is the voice of the voiceless mothers, aunties, grandmothers, sisters, wives and daughters all across the African continent as seen in her recent documentary “The Motherland Tour: A Journey of African Women with Yvonne Chaka Chaka.” The film documents Yvonne’s journey from Zambia through Sierra Leone, Kenya and down to South Africa telling the stories of women’s triumphs and survival – women who are leaving indelible footprints in their communities by improving health conditions and teaching others to do the same.

Born in Dobsonville, Soweto in 1965, Yvonne Chaka Chaka burst onto the music scene in 1981, becoming the first black entertainer ever seen on television in South Africa. In 1985, she took up music and debuted her first hit album which included songs like ‘I’m in Love with a DJ,” the famous “Umqombothi – African Beer” tune, and “I Cry for Freedom.” Like many black South Africans in her time, Yvonne grew up on the wrong side of town. Her father, died when she was barely a teenager; and her mother worked her hands to the bone as a domestic servant and struggled to raise her three daughters. In her own words, Yvonne admires her mother the most because she showed such strength when it mattered the most: “My mother raised her daughters single-handedly on a domestic worker’s salary. That took great courage and strength. She is my mentor and hero.” With her rise to stardom came personal tribulations and shaky moments; like the death of her friend and bandmate from cerebral malaria. This was Yvonne’s moment of awareness to the deadly reality that awaits many in Africa’s poor communities. Malaria is a preventable disease, and can be easily treated if one is educated about its causes and effects. When UNICEF called her a few months after the tragic death of her friend, to request that she become a Goodwill Ambassador, Yvonne gladly signed on as an ambassador for malaria because she says she “wanted to be educate herself.’

Ms. Chaka Chaka holds two diplomas from the University of South Africa and teaches literacy on a part time basis at the University of South Africa and sits on several charitable and NGO boards – including the board of the Johannesburg Tourism Company. She owns a limousine service with her husband and owns her own music label. Most importantly, she continued to trot the globe showcasing the strength, pride and survival of Africa’s women.

Sources:
http://princessofafrica.com/yvonne-chaka-chaka/family

Personal notes from Motherland Tour documentary screening held in Washington, DC October 2010.

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