I shit you not, you can Google Mam’Dorothy Masuku and ‘Masuka’ will pop up. Growing up, I’ve asked myself countless times what Mam’Dorothy’s correct surname is.
We live in times where assumptions of how someone’s name is spelt could land you in trouble. Not all Shabalala’s are slept with a ‘T’, in the same way Khoza can also be slept with an ‘S’. So I’ve always been unsure about the legend’s last name until I learnt that she was actually a Masuku.
In the 1950s, when the vocalist with an elegant voice began her career, a record executive misspelt her surname by adding the first letter of the alphabet at the end of her last name. The Caucasian executive butchered her Ndebele surname on one of her first records. Headlines today, carry the weight of the perilous ‘A’ at the rear of her surname. But this is because the young Masuku was told that Masuka will be her stage name. “She said she had kinda accepted it because in the Jewish language, the word Masuka means being happy, happiness or something like that. So she kinda let it slide,” said singer Tribute Birdie Mboweni speaking in an interview on Kaya FM.
Mboweni is one of the very few young singers that celebrated Masuku while she was still alive, by creating her own modern renditions of music originally done by Mam’Dorothy.
Born in 1935, in Bulawayo Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa as a 12 year-old and in less than 10 years in Mzansi, she was already touring the country as a 19 year-old. She passed away on Saturday the age of 83, surrounded by family. She’s expected to be laid to rest this weekend.