JABULANI: Penelope Jane ‘Thandeka’ is back in town, for the second time in three months. The first time was when she was shooting a video for her collaboration with Radio & Weasel.
We know about the PJ which stands for Penelope Jane but where did the ‘Powers’ come from?
I was christened Penelope Jane and was always called PJ at school, and the Powers came from my record company, which gave me a choice of either Penny Lane, PJ Presley or PJ Powers. I chose PJ Powers.
How would you describe your style of music?
If I had to put myself in a particular box, which I do not enjoy doing, I would say my music is a mixture of afro-rock. However, I am an African artist.
You started out in a band, why did you decide to go solo and not form your own band instead?
I did not decide to go solo but bands invariably have a life span and the singer of that band, generally in history, tends to go on to do solo work. I have enjoyed success in singing for 33 years.
Do you miss anything about being in a band?
I do not miss anything. I am someone who lives in the present. I had wonderful times but that was then.
What is the difference between music in the past and music today?
I think it is the same as fashion. Collectively like liquid, it moves and I believe that music is actually today, more like it was 30 years ago. People are listening to real songs, real music. We have been through different trends and the music will always continue to be a liquid form of creativity. The difference today is that in the past you would buy a piece of plastic that you would play in your home. Now everything is done on download.
In the past, things were not easy in South Africa and musicians used to relay their messages about Apartheid. Were you one of them?
Yes, I think that I most definitely would relay messages about the situation in our country in the 80s and in those dark days of apartheid. I did not necessarily sing about apartheid but more about the lack of freedom in our country and I always will sing and write about any kind of discord in terms of justice anywhere in the world. I have a voice and I am very lucky that I can use it.
Tell us about the name ‘Thandeka’.
The word Thandeka means ‘the loved one’ and this was given to me in 1982 in a very well-known township called Soweto. You must remember that in 1982 South Africa was going through its first stage of emergency and it was absolutely foreign for Black and White people to mix and there I was, singing in one of the most dangerous and turbulent parts of the country – Soweto.
We read somewhere that you were once a tourism ambassador.
I think I was a tourism ambassador because my work and my singing has taken me to every corner of South Africa, so I can speak with authority about my country. I also think I stand out as one of those artistes in South Africa who have never even thought about leaving. So I think that passion for my country drove me to be invited as a tourism ambassador.
What do you know about Uganda’s entertainment industry?
Not enough but I am learning fast that people such as Radio & Weasel, and Eddy Kenzo are big. I am also realising that as a country that did not play its own music not so long ago, Uganda has evolved into a force to be reckoned with.
UG collabos and the charity work
ON COLLABO WITH RADIO & WEASEL
I wanted to do a collaboration and my record company at the time thought that Radio & Weasel were perfect for that. I listened to their stuff and heard how socially-conscious they were with their track Plenty Plenty. It was a no-brainer for me. Here was a duo with great vocals and great lyrics. I chose to collaborate on Home to Africa because with the synergy between the three of us, the song was electric.
ANY FUTURE UGANDAN COLLABOS?
As I said earlier, I believe in living in the present and I am enjoying and loving the successes of Radio & Weasel. With Home to Africa however, having been in Uganda and loving the country so much, I can see that I will do another collaboration or two.
JOINING THE GIRL UP INITIATIVE UGANDA
This is a wonderful story to tell. Five years ago I went on a spiritual cruise with a woman called Connie Viveros and when we were at a library in Alexandria in Egypt, a group of young black people from Uganda came up to greet me and that is when she told me about Girl Up Initiative Uganda. I must add that I met one of the young people that ran up to me at a radio station in Uganda the last time I was here and he presented the picture we had taken outside the museum in Egypt, so it shows that this is real and meant to be.
BEST OF YOUR SONGS
I can never choose which is the best of my songs. I have been privileged to record too many and enjoyed success with so many of them. However, songs such as Jabulani, which is woven into the tapestry of Africa and There Is An Answer, which is a song of hope stand out.
I do not believe in telling people what they should expect from my show. All I know is that they can be guaranteed of hearing their favourite hits such as See You In Soweto, There Is An Answer and Jabulani, together with a lot of brand new material which.