Masuka was born in 1935 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (the country known
as Southern Rhodesia in those days). Her father was originally
from Zambia and her mother was a Zulu. As a young girl aged
12, her family moved to South Africa and she was fortunate to
attend a Catholic boarding school in Johannesburg. Dorothy's
health had not been good. Her talent as a singer was very soon
spotted and she took part in school concerts. She was attracted
by American jazz and also the South African music scene when
Dolly Rathebe became popular. An upcoming record company called
Troubador invited Dorothy to audition and she was successful.
That proved to be the first rung of her ladder to fame and doing
what she really loved.
At one time when Dorothy was just 16 she
escaped the boarding school and went to Durban to join Philemon
Mogotsi's African Ink Spots: her school and family wanted her
to remain in school but she went back only for a short while
and left again for Bulawayo. This time those responsible for
her and the record company gave up and allowed her to pursue
her career as a singer. While travelling back to Johannesburg
she wrote the hit song 'Hamba Notsokolo'. By the age of 20 Dorothy
had appeared on magazine covers and toured South Africa with
a black musical revue, in which Miriam Makeba also took part,
the popular African Jazz and Variety. Miriam mentions Dorothy
and sings her composition 'Kulala' during her performance recorded
on the CD En Public a Paris et Conakry. Another South
African, Aura Msimang, has also covered the same song. Some
compositions had serious
themes and were
banned by the authorities. She was in Bulawayo
in 1961 when the Special Branch siezed the master recording
of one song and she was advised not to return until it was safer...
Between that time and 1965 Dorothy was in exile, working in
Malawi and Tanzania. In 1965 she went back to Bulawayo but had
to flee again, not to go back until the nation of Zimbabwe was
formed in 1980.
She recorded the album Pata Pata in
1990. Two years later Dorothy went back to her favourite city,
Johannesburg, and released another album, Magumede. In
2001 her album Mzilikazi was recorded. Dorothy still
travels to perform in different parts of the world: in 2001
she took part in a special evening with Don Laka in London (see
photo above) and then in 2002 she was in New York and joined
the Mahotella Queens on stage.
Dorothy performed in London in December
2002 to promote her new CD, The Definitive Collection.