The following is an article written in 8 August 2002 titled ‘The return of
the Dark City Sisters’.
Joyce Mogatusi, believed to come from Molepolole, is named as the longest serving founder member of the group that was founded in 1958 in South Africa. There is very little biographical information about Mogatusi though some informants point out that a search in Molepolole might unearth this giant of African popular music.
Reports that another of Botswana’s artists in exile, Cocky Tlhotlhalemaje, believed to originate from Matsiloje, is a painful reminder of the lack of information about the work and personal histories of trail blazers like himself and Joyce Mogatusi.
The Dark City Sisters accompanied the late Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde between five and eight years ago at the Boatle complex near Ramotswa under the management of Norman Setshwaelo. It is not certain whether Mogatusi was there. Much of the attention of the musicians was devoted to Nkabinde who was very ill, needing to be cared for during breaks.
“For the Dark City Sisters, four is a significant number. The group consists of four women who have been around the music scene for four decades, and will be performing this Friday, in Jo’burg as part of the Music in Public Places.”
The group (Francisca Mngomezulu, Ester Khoza, Hilda Mogapi and Joyce Mogatusi) has proved that in the music industry sometimes perseverance breeds success. This female mbaqanga group was formed in 1958, and has been through so many obstacles that one wonders what kept them going through all these years.
The group enjoyed success during the mid-60s, travelling as far afield as Zambia and Mozambique. In 1964, Caroline Carpenter replaced Hilda Mogapi. But Carpenter stayed for only a year, rejoining the Sisters 19 years later, after a successful career with the Mahotela Queens. A couple of years later another Mahotela Queen member, Emily Zwane, joined the Sisters.
By 1984 two original group members had passed away. Mogatusi, the only original surviving member, kept recruiting in spite of all these disheartening hindrances. Talk about women power.
“In 1988 we went through a period where we were not recording any new songs, but just performing live all over the country,” says Mogatusi. “There was no need to record new songs,” she says, people wanted to hear and dance to the old ones. So we gave people exactly what they wanted.”
In the early 1990s compact discs revolutionised the music industry. The Sisters recorded their first CD: The Return Of The Dark City Sisters, which was not well received by the market. The fans were not impressed with all the modernised version of the songs. All the additional backing instruments and computerised sounds were not an improvement. Learning from hindsight, the following three CDs that they produced were unplugged.
On Friday, the Sisters will sing some of their famous songs, including: Ilanga more, Jimmy, Amaswazi, Rose my girl, Siyagiya, Kwadukuza.
Dark City Sisters of today have performed in a number of government-sponsored shows at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, on a Workers Day 2000; in an AIDS awareness campaign at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, in 2001; the same year at the Desmond Tutu Peace Fund.
They are singing this Friday at Mary Fitzgerald Square, in the afternoon from 14h30, particularly because “the notion of celebrating international sisterhood appeals to us”.