Throwback : Yvonne Chaka Chaka – Umqombothi (African Beer)


In the spirit of Throwback thursday, we bring South Africa’s Chaka-Chaka, growing up in a multi-family quarters somewhere in Ikorodu, Lagos Nigeria…..My father would play videos of Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Brenda Fassie every sunday after church, we would sit around the TV and watch with so much excitement. It was safe to watch music videos those days unlike now when almost all videos are filled with nudity and erotic dancing.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka (born Yvonne Machaka in 1965) in Dobsonville in Soweto) is a South African singer 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”, “thank you mister dj”, “I Cry for Freedom”, “Makoti”, “Motherland” and the ever-popular “Umqombothi” (“African Beer”) ensured Yvonne’s stardom. 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”, “Sangoma”,”Motherland” and the ever-popular, “Umqobomthi” immediately ensured Chaka Chaka’s status as a star on South Africa’s music scene.

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”.
We celebrate this Legend today on her track “Umqobomthi” which means “African beer”…a typical “thank God its friday” video…..The video was shot in October 1986 in varios locations in Johannesburg and out at Heia Safari Ranch near Muldersdrift. Filmed on 16mm Arri. DOP Roy MacGregor, styled by Leigh vd Merwe, produced by Pierre Hinch for S&H Films. Record co is Dephon, Phil Hollis. The video was Written, edited and directed by a young Makhlari. The aim was to put sneak in some social commentary desguised as celebration. It was the apartheid era afterall and little dissent could be shown on TV. The song “Umqombothi” was featured in the opening scene of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda.


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