I am proud to see Women in Reggae getting more empowered
In 1991 Gallo Music Production Released a compilation album with various artists: Reggae Strong for Peace produced by Richard Siluma and Lucky Dube. The compilation has the best Reggae artists South Africa has produced and included Lucky Dube, System Enemy, Carlos Djedje, Harley and the Rasta Family, O’YABA, Angola Maseko and The Groaners, Sipho Johnson, Slaves and Jose Carlos.
One name stands out – Sister Phumi Maduna – the önly female in the line up and the first female to release a Reggae Album in South Africa. The album titled Substitute was inspired and produced by Richard Siluma and the late Lucky Dube . The album took a back seat in Sister Phumi’s career as she turned her focus on touring internationally with Lucky Dube as a backing vocalist.
Out of the artists who contributed to this project, (apart from Angola Maseko, Carlos Djedje and Harley (Colbert Mukwevho ) Sister Phumi Maduna remained the last woman standing, she is still active in the music industry, still touring (together with Thutukani Cele), still performing and releasing music and now she formed the Maduna Productions, a home for artists like Togata (former lucky Dube Backing vocalists). Her latest project, Africa Celebrates Phumi Maduna, will be released under Maduna Productions produced by CoolPro from Malawi
But even before the release of this classic Reggae album, Sister Phumi had already tasted success and fame in the volatile South African music industry. Her music career spans over 2 decades and her musical gift has afforded her the privilege of touring internationally as well as working with the South African music industry’s most seasoned musicians.
Phumelele Yvonne Maduna was born in the late 60’s in Soweto, Orlando East, the very first township developed by the Johannesburg municipality, home to many cultural icons, activists, artists and notably James Mpanza (The founding Father of Soweto) of the Sofasonke movement which was born from the dire need for residential land.
She began singing at a young age and was determined to become a success in music despite reservations from an otherwise supportive mother, who was a teacher. She started off by joining and performing in stage-plays by renowned playwrights such as Gibson Kente and Sam Mhangwana. She later joined the band Amakhowa (The Mushrooms) with co-actress Brenda Fassie, she then joined the Soul Brothers before meeting with the late Madoda Malotana with whom she would form a Duo called ‘Cheek to Cheek’. They met at the studio session voicing for the late Margaret Singana’s album Isiphiwo Sam. In 1984 Cheek to Cheek released their debut album So good So Nice under CCP Records, which went on to sell thousands of copies making them the best selling group at the time. This was followed by 4 more albums which were a huge success making them a household name in the then Disco/Bubblegum synthesised music of the 80’s. Her first solo album ‘Bad Guy’ released under CCP was a critical success, and Phumi was determined to push futher.
She discovered her love for reggae music when Cheek to Cheek left CCP Records for Gallo Music. As a result of this manoeuvre, she found herself performing as a backing vocalist for Lucky Dube who, along with Richard Siluma, was the inspiration for Phumi Maduna’s first reggae album ‘Substitute’ (1991). This album would be followed by ‘Sweeter Than Ever’ and ‘Style and Fashion’ (produced by Trompies’ Eugene Mthethwa). Phumi Maduna has toured internationally and performed in countries such as Japan, The USA, The Fiji Islands, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda (PAM Awards, 2004).
Sista Phumi Maduna has shared the stage with legendary artists such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Blondie Makhene, Ali Katt, Steve Kekana, Senyaka, Sipho ‘Hot Sticks’ Mabuse, Mercy Pakela, Keith Sweat, The Commodores and Kool & the Gang. In addition, she also did backing vocals on the Album Abasebenzi by Jose Carlos and also did studio backing vocals for System Enemy.
After the passing of her mentor, she released an album dedicated to his memory: Africa Unite – Tribute to Lucky Dube followed by Victory, a Reggae gospel album. She and Thutukani Cele recorded a song ‘Free West Papua’ dedicated to the people of West Papua who are fighting for their land and sovereignty and who are staunch supporters of Lucky Dube.
Sista Phumi Maduna has now taken upon herself to assist female artists through her Maduna Productions Label. The first project is the Africa Celebrates Phumi Maduna Riddim. The Riddim is coordinated and produced by CoolPro and has 28 female artists from across Africa who will be highlighted through this project while honoring the legacy of Sista Phumi. Africa Celebrates Phumi Maduna has also given birth to Women In Reggae Movement which is a platform that will advocate and encourage unity of Women In Reggae.
“Being honoured while I’m still alive is humbling. It reminded me of the journey I walked in Music across Africa and Abroad. This celebration reconnected me with my fans globally. I am proud to see Women in Reggae getting more empowered and would like to see more occupying spaces that believed to be male spaces.” Phumi Maduna