POPULAR South African singer Penelope Jane Dunlop, also known as PJ Powers or Thandeka, makes a welcome return to Harare this week for a show series at Reps Theatre, performing a range of songs that have helped make her a household name in entertainment throughout Southern Africa during the past 25 years.
Seen recently at Hifa 2009, she is back for five stage performances in a more intimate venue than the open air concerts for which she is best known, including in her repertoire chart songs, own compositions and some of her more recent cabaret-style music.
Durban-born PJ Powers first made a name for herself in a girl group Pantha as front singer when it was formed in 1979 and then went on to national fame across South Africa with Hotline, performing at various venues, including at stadiums in townships at a time when crossover music between the races in South Africa was frowned on by the authorities.
Â 1988 saw PJ banned from radio and TV for a year by the apartheid government for her performance at a charity concert for war orphans in Zimbabwe, together with Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte.
Â She was encouraged to continue her singing by Nelson Mandela, who sent her an encouraging letter from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town. She then established a correspondence-based relationship with Nelson Mandela at the time and cemented this with a working relationship when he was released from prison.
In the â€˜90s her music took on a more Afro-pop focus, finding a receptive audience in the black market, and she took on the nickname Thandeka, â€œthe loved oneâ€.
She has released a number of top-selling albums and one of her greatest hits was the song Jabulani, which was released internationally. Â
In 1995, she had a hit on the UK charts, together with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with the song World in Union which she sang at the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Cape Town, viewed by more than 500 million people across the world. She also sang at Nelson Mandelaâ€™s 1994 inauguration and at various of his birthday parties.
Some of her biggest hits like Jabulani, together with Feel so strong, Youâ€™re so good to me, There is an answer, and Home to Africa, reflecting her patriotism. PJ has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Hugh Masekela, Divine Divas, Lord Richard Attenborough, RichardÂ Grant, Sibongile Khumalo, Janet Suzman and other big names.
PJ sang for Queen Elizabeth, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
She has performed in Zimbabwe many times since the late 1980s and has a strong following in the country.
One of her most successful appearances was before 5 000 people at a fundraising concert at the Polo Grounds just north of Harare in April 2000, which followed a critically-acclaimed, week-long show series at the Rainbow 7 Arts Theatre in 1996.
Her Reps performances began on Wednesday July 1and run up to Saturday July 4 at 7pm, with a special matinÃ©e at 2.30pm on Saturday.
Booking for these shows has already opened at the Spotlight booking office in the Reps foyer, open daily between 9am and 4pm.