Meet Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Africa’s Oprah!
Yvonne Chaka Chaka (born Yvonne Machaka in 1965) is a South African
Dubbed the “Princess of Africa”, Chaka Chaka has been at the forefront of South African popular music for 20 years. Songs like “I’m Burning Up”, “I’m in Love With a DJ”, “I Cry for Freedom”, “Makoti”, “Motherland” and the ever-popular “Umqombothi
” (“African Beer”) ensured Yvonne’s stardom.
One of her songs also features in the opening scene of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda
Chaka Chaka was born in Dobsonville in Soweto
. She became the first Black child to appear on South African television. In 1981 “Sugar Shack”, a talent show, introduced her to the South African public.
Chaka Chaka started singing at 19 in 1985 when Phil Hollis of Dephon Records discovered her in Johannesburg
. Shortly after, her debut album “I’m in Love With a DJ”, sold 35,000 copies, and the title track became an instant hit.
Songs like “I’m Burning Up”, “I Cry for Freedom”, “Makoti”, “Motherland” and the ever-popular, “Umqombothi” immediately ensured Chaka Chaka’s status as a star on South Africa’s mbaqanga
Chaka Chaka had it tough growing up. Her father died when she was 11 and her mother, a domestic worker, brought up three daughters on her meagre 40 Rand a month salary.
She has two diplomas from the University of South Africa
, one in adult education, another in local government, management and administration. She also studied speech and drama at Trinity College, London
, qualifying in 1997.
Releasing hit after hit, Chaka Chaka’s subsequent award winning albums include “Burning Up”, “Sangoma”, “Who’s The Boss”, “Motherland”, ” Be Proud to be African”, “Thank You Mr DJ”, “Back on my Feet”, “Rhythm of Life”, “Who’s got the Power”, “Bombani ( Tiko Rahini), “Power of Afrika”, “Yvonne and Friends” and “Kwenzenjani”.
Chaka Chaka owns a limousine company together with her husband, Dr Mandlalele Mhinga, has her own music label and her own production company. She teaches literacy part time at the University of South Africa, sits on several boards of charitable organisations and NGOs, and serves on the board of the Johannesburg Tourism Company.
Throughout her illustrious career Chaka Chaka has met people like Nelson Mandela
(singing at his 85th birthday party), the Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
and Oprah Winfrey
Chaka Chaka’s continuing legacy as “Princess of Africa” is a testament to her connection to everyday people as well as royalty. Whether she is performing for Kings and Queens, Presidents and First Ladies or corporate concerts; she always returns to those she loves – her fans and family of listeners in South African cities, townships and rural areas.
“Mama Africa”, Miriam Makeba
describes her as “She’s my baby!”, Hugh Masekela
adds that Yvonne is “my mad niece”. Legends Dolly Rathebe
and Dorothy Masuka
describe Yvonne’s music as “something that all should listen to”.
When asked who she admired most, Chaka Chaka said “My mother because she has always been there for me. My mother raised three daughters single-handedly on a domestic workers salary. That took great courage and strength. She is my mentor and hero. When I was born in 1965 in Soweto, it was during apartheid, and those were extremely difficult times. My dad was a great musician who could never realize his dream. He died when I was 11 years old. I inherited my talent from both parents, so music has always been in my blood.
When I was little I would strum an empty tin and blow into a broom stick pretending it was a microphone. I sang in church choirs. I loved singing. I am blessed that I achieved my destiny, and been able to accomplish what my father could not.”