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Edn Eddie
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l'homme francophile
l'homme francophile

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Yvonne's date with EA fans

Sunday October 18 1998

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ENTERTAINMENT By Ogova Ondego South African songbird Yvonne Chaka Chaka is expected to visit Kenya later this month in the course of a musical tour that also takes her to Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The musician, who has performed in Kenya on numerous occasions since her first appearance here in 1988, came into the international limelight in 1985 with her blockbuster, I'm in Love with the DJ. It sold 25,000 copies in just under seven days. She followed it up with I'm Burning Up and Thank You Mr DJ which earned her recognition in North America and Europe.

Unlike many other African artistes, to show she had not crossed over entirely and was a complete African woman, in 1988, Yvonne recorded the album, Umqomboti, whose title track is in praise of African beer. Her other album in the same year, I Cry Freedom, was in support of the struggle against apartheid.

All these releases earned her either a gold or a platinum in South Africa. Her other albums are Sangoma, The Best of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Rhythm of Life Back on my Feet and Africa.

Yvonne is always proud to be identified, not just as an African, but as one who grew up among the poorest of the poor.

This humility, and the fact that she has never attempted to change her features through plastic surgery, are perhaps what has made her so popular all over Africa.

When she toured Nigeria in 1989, for example, fans carried the car taking her to the stadium.

She received similar treatment in Congo where she performed to 70,000 screaming fans. This is the turf of music greats like Koffi Olomide, Tabu Ley, the late Franco, Tshala Muana, but Yvonne appears to have eclipsed them all on this occasion.

Yvonne is also popular in Kenya where she was first invited to entertain guests during the "Nyayo Decade" celebrations in 1988. Her albums, especially Umqomboti, are quite popular here.

Born Yvonne Ntombizodwa Mchaka in Soweto, Johannesburg in 1965, she was the youngest of three sisters. Her father died when she was only nine and her mother, Sophie Mchaka, had to bring them up all alone. Unfortunately, she had to drop out of secondary school for lack of fees.

Deeply interested in music, the young Yvonne actively sang in school choirs where she perfected her singing. But her entry into showbiz can be described as accidental. She was discovered in 1984 by the then leading pop group in South Africa, Stimela.

Recruitted as a back-up vocalist, Yvonne was so shy and inexperienced that when the time came to perform on stage in her native Soweto, she could not face the crowd. She ran straight home!

A year later, in 1985, her debut album was to become an instant hit and catapult the then 19-year-old girl to international acclaim.

The first thing she did with the proceeds from her music was to buy her mother a house. Later, she used the rest of the money to enroll in college where she earned a diploma in speech and drama.

Yvonne is married to a doctor, Mkheyana Mhinga, with whom she has three children.
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MYTAKE - Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Friday October 13 2006

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Yvonne Chaka Chaka
The South African diva, who shot to fame in the late '80s, was in the country last week to campaign against breast cancer.
She also brought her latest album, Zibuyile Izinkomo (Zulu for the cattle are back from grazing). It’s her 16th.Were you once in love with a DJ?

Shame! I wish I was! There was no DJ. The song (I’m in love with a DJ) had been done earlier by three female singers, but I think their producer wasn’t happy. I came from nowhere and sang it, and there it was.

Why should we listen to your latest album?

Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Zibuyile Izinkomo is simply a love song. The second track says, "I'd rather trust a stone than a person". It’s talks about malice. I tell you my secret and you spread it all around. I'd rather confide in a stone.

There’s also a song about giving peace a chance, which I recorded when the US attacked Iraq. Then there’s a track called My child. There were no street kids when we were growing up. These days we have so many of them because we are so wrapped up in "me" and "I" that we’ve forgotten about broader unity.

What does success mean to you?

The 20 years I have been in music are a real milestone for me. In this industry, you can easily succumb to so many things — drugs, fame, money, and think you're on cloud nine. Luckily, the industry hasn't changed me that way, but for the better. I've taken my children to good schools, I'm travelling, and I'm helping where I can.

For example, I came here to sing for people’s breasts. I love breasts. I think breasts are sensual and I feel privileged to have good ones. I'm here to help those who are not very fortunate. I help in the war against malaria, and I help in HIV/Aids campaigns. That’s success to me — acknowledging other people and making a difference in their lives.

Which do you spend most time fighting, malaria, HIV/Aids or breast cancer?

I have dedicated the past year to fighting malaria because one of my musicians died of the disease. We had returned from Gabon. Had I known what I know now about malaria, I don’t think she would have died. I'd have been able to detect it quickly, sent her to the doctor, and she would have got proper diagnosis and correct medication. But we didn’t know. She said she had a fever, and we all thought, "Oh, it’s just a fever". Five days later, she died.

Tell us about your most awkward moment on stage

Interestingly, I've never had an embarrassing moment on stage. I've never lost my voice in the 20 years I've been a singer. Thank God I've never fallen down, and my boobs have never popped out. But sometimes people make funny signs with their fingers and faces, and I say, "Did I really see that?"

Define humility

When I'm on stage, you guys focus on me, but I make sure I introduce my band to you because there is no Yvonne without a band. The band makes me who I am and I make them who they are. I won’t say, "I'm the superstar". It doesn’t work for me that way. I'd greet you the same way I'd Michael Jackson if I met you on the street. You don’t have to be famous for me to respect you.

You seek your peace of mind from?

The bedroom. Sleep gives me peace. If it were possible for me to sleep for 24 hours, I would. I believe sleep is where I get my beauty from, so I sleep as much as I can.

What do you love most about Kenya?

The people. Did you know that my first big concert outside South Africa was in Kenya in 1987? I think Kenya opened the doors to Africa for me. I had been to Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Kenya was the first country I came to in East Africa. Then I started getting invites to Tanzania, Nigeria and to other West African countries. Kenya is a great country.

What's your favourite pastime?

I 'm a very "closed" person. I love being at home with my children and friends. I think I'm a boring person and I acknowledge that. I used to love cooking but that stopped about three years ago. Now I cook because I have to. I think I've tired of it. Back then, I did really love cooking and my friends would invite other people to come to Yvonne’s to eat.

What must I include on the menu?

Recently, I was in Ethiopia and I had the most delicious Indian cuisine. The day before that I'd been to an Italian restaurant. I didn’t fancy traditional Ethiopian food. I don’t know what’s traditional here. In Uganda they eat matoke and I don’t eat bananas. I like tripe, though I have to cook it myself. I must ensure it’s thoroughly cleaned. I'll clean it, then cook it.

INTERVIEW: Elly Wamari (ewamari@nation.co.ke)
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The change begins with us

Saturday January 24 2009

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South African diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

South African diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
By JOHN MUCHIRI

Buzz: What does Obama’s presidency generally mean to you?

Yvonne: It’s ecstatic and every African is proud. America rules the world, and to have an African-American, with an African root in the White House, is just wow. It can never get better.

How is the reaction back in South Africa?

Every African, wherever they are, is proud that Obama is now on top of the game. South Africans have been following the process very carefully, and I was told they were all glued to their TVs to watch the inauguration ceremony, the biggest ever in the world.

Does his inauguration remind you of the time Nelson Mandela came into power?

Mandela’s inauguration was major, and I thought that the next big thing to ever happen will be his funeral. I don’t want to think or talk about it, but I know that moment will come. Only God knows when. Obama’s was definitely bigger because it affected the world’s super power country.

What are the parallels between Mandela’s and Obama’s inauguration?

Both brought the unity, especially between the black and the white people. South Africa was just recovering from apartheid and the racism in America has been unthinkable.

People came from different parts of the world when Mandela was being inaugurated, and I happened to have sat just three rows behind him. Obama speaks with this voice that commands silence and you can hear a pin drop. When Mandela gets into a room and stands on the podium, everybody wants to listen. I must say, we Africans are exceptional.

Will this change your music in any way?

I may do a song or not, I don’t get carried away or take advantage of the situation, and that’s just me. I could have gone to the studio immediately and recoded an Obama song, but I didn’t. Obama is now the president, he might not save the world but I’m sure he will have a major impact.

The big question is, how can we help in making the world better for every musician, farmer, doctor, or even journalists? Before doing any song, I would look at that direction first and make music that will change the world.

Tell me about your projects here in Kenya.

I was approached by Vestregaard Frandsen, a company that has built a hospital in Western Kenya, last September. They asked me if I wanted to be part of the project, and since am the Unicef goodwill ambassador and the president of the Princess of Africa which deals with malaria in women, I decided to join in.

The project has helped so much in even helping the community know their HIV status, before it’s too late.

How has been the experience, especially travelling to Kakamega?

It has been exciting, but challenging at the same time. It’s my second time there and a proud to see what is happening, especially the lives that have been changed within a short period of time.

It’s an honour for me working with everyone in the field, the way we have learnt how to deal with challenges in the process and all that. I first shed tears when I saw how dedicated everyone has been.

What do you think we should all do as Africans, now that Obama is in power?

We should all be part of the change and not wait for Obama to do everything for us. There is a lot here in Africa that we can do to make life better and that is what every African should focus on.

You as a Kenyan, can reach out to the marginalised people, and make their lives better, in whatever way we can. Let us all use our abilities, and once we start, then change in the world will be achieved.
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ARE THE 21ST CENTRUY LADIES  WHO ARE FINANCIALLY STABLE PROVING UNDATABLE?
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I'm listening to Soukous Radio on TuneIn
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