Emily Zwane had a lovely voice- Yvonne Chaka Chaka
It was a case of she died but no
one said a word. Details are sketchy but DRUM is reliably informed that
songbird Emily Zwane has died. The famed mbaqanga singer, who made her name
with the Mahotella Queens during the ’70s and ’80s, died at 72 after a long
Independent music researcher Norton
Ramavhoya told DRUM that Emily’s daughter, Nelly Zwane, wasn’t the sort of
person who would make the news known to the media.
“Nelly isn’t someone who could have
made it known to the public,” Norton said. “Even the funeral service was
private matter with the press completely barred from the proceedings.”
Hilda Tloubatla, one of the
original Mahotella Queens, is deeply saddened by the news of Emily’s death. “I
live not too far from Emily but even I was not aware she’s passed away. I had
to find out through an industry colleague from the UK. Can you imagine that?
She was a sweet, respectful girl who joined the band from around the late
“Tsamaya Moratuoa is certainly one
song I recall right now that she did,” said Yvonne Chaka Chaka when we called
her about the news. “She had a sweet voice. It’s just sad people like Emily
were not celebrated. My awards show, Backing Vocalists and Session Musicians
Awards, tries to honour singers and musicians across the board. But we honour
the ones who are still alive. Going forward, we’ll be looking at ways to honour
people posthumously. With hindsight, Emily should have been celebrated.”
Emily was born on 1 May 1945 in
Brakpan, Ekurhuleni. The many compositions Emily penned for the Mahotella
Queens include Ke Mmarona, Selailai, Ke Sokolohlile, Duma Duma, Uma Ngibuya
Emsebenzini, Moleko Ntlohele and Bana Mamelang.
Emily also lent her vocals to some
of the group’s most well-known material, including Umculo Kawupheli, Thina
Siyakhanyisa, Thatha Izimpahla Zakho, Lebowa Lelegolo and Mosese O Mosweu. She also
provided backing vocals for the dynamic soul singer Walter Dlamini alongside
Irene Mawela and Thandi Radebe.
We’re reliably told that Emily was
buried in Tsakane on the East Rand a few weeks ago. She’s survived by her
daughter Nelly and 10 grandchildren.
May her soul rest in peace!