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Penelope Jane Dunlop also known as PJ Powers or "Thandeka" (born 16 July 1960) has enjoyed a highly successful musical career in South Africa spanning more than 33 years. P.J. Powers has recorded 15 albums and is well known for her UK chart hit "World In Union" (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) in 1995.
Early life and career
Penelope was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. She then formed the group Gymslip along with her brother, prior to joining the all-girl group Pantha as front singer when it was formed in 1979. She later became the lead singer for the rock band Hotline, which was formed in Johannesburg in 1980. The band changed their style to Afro-rock in 1983. Hotline disbanded in 1987, after which P.J. Powers pursued a solo career.
The year 1988 saw P.J. banned from radio and TV for a year by the apartheid government for her performance at a charity concert for war orphans in Zimbabwe, along with Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte. She was encouraged to continue her singing by Nelson Mandela, who sent her an encouraging letter from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town.
In 1995, her recording of the Rugby World Cup official song featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, "World in Union", reached no. 47 on the UK Singles Chart,. She performed the song live at the opening of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Cape Town for a worldwide television audience.
In the '90s, her music took on a more Afro-pop focus, finding a receptive audience in the black market, who gave her the nickname, "Thandeka" — "the loved one".
Some of her biggest hits like "Feel So Strong" (a 1983 duet with Steve Kekana) she wrote herself, as well as "You're So Good to Me" (1982), "There is an Answer" (1986) and "Home to Africa" (1985). One of her biggest hits (with Hotline) was "Jabulani", which was written by Hotline's bass guitarist, George van Dyk.
P.J. has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Hugh Masekela, Divine Divas, Lord Richard Attenborough, Richard E. Grant, Sibongile Khumalo, Janet Suzman and other big names. P.J. sang for Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. She sang at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela and at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. She collaborated with Vicky Sampson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and M'du Masilela for the music video flighted at the United Nations Assembly in Washington, D.C. and in Greece. P.J. also wrote an 85th birthday song for Mandela, which she sang for him and guests including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey at his party in 2003. In 2009, Powers' recording of "World In Union" was featured in the Academy Award-nominated film, Invictus.
Honours and awards
- 2000 Nelson Mandela presented Powers with a commemorative limited edition gold coin
- Appointed a South African Tourism Ambassador
- June 2003 the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation honoured her and singer Sibongile Khumalo with their prestigious annual award, promoting reconciliation by "singing people together"
- September 2003 food chain Pick 'n Pay nominated her as one of their "Stars of Charity" for having "made a difference in uplifting the youth of South Africa"
- In Jule 2013" PJ Powers was honoured with a Living Legends award
Powers has been extensively involved with the Reach For a Dream Foundation, as well as the Hamlet Foundation. She was commissioned by the President's office to write and perform a song for the Children's Rights Commission.
In 2004 she was voted 93rd in the Top 100 Great South Africans.
BORN in DURBAN in 1960, PJ Powers made her debut as a vocalist with the all-girl group “Pantha” in 1979. She then fronted the rock group “Hotline” from 1980 through to 1987, when she launched her solo career.
One of South Africa’s most consistent and consummate performers, PJ Powers has recorded over 16 albums, and has maintained a high profile presence both as recording artist and as a live performer for over twenty years.
Loved and enjoyed by a diverse crossover audience in her native South Africa, her support extends to the neighbouring states such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique.
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. She was encouraged to continue her singing by Nelson Mandela, who sent her an encouraging letter from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town.
PJ’s 1995 collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo “World in Union”, introduced her to an international audience, when the song charted in the United Kingdom. Performances at high profile events including the Inauguration of President Nelson Mandela, and the Rugby World Cup further consolidated her high profile career.
In the ’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, “the loved one”. Some of her biggest hits like Feel so strong she wrote herself, ether with You’re so good to me, There is an answer, and Home to Africa, reflecting her patriotism. One of her biggest hits (with Hotline) was “Jabulani” – written by Hotline band member, bass guitarist George van Dyk.
PJ has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Joan matrading, Hugh Masekela, Divine Divas, Lord Richard Attenborough, Richard E. Grant, Sibongile Khumalo, Janet Suzman and other big names. PJ sang for Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
She sang at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela and at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. PJ collaborated with Vicky Sampson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and M’du Masilela for the music video flighted at the United Nation¹s Assembly in Washington DC and in Greece. PJ also wrote an 85th birthday song for Mandela, which she sang for him and guests including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey at his party in 2003.
In 2009 Powers’s song, World In Union was featured in the Academy Award-nominated film, Invictus (film).
2010 saw PJ teaming up with local Hip Hop Superstar, HHP (Hip Hop Pantsula) in a collaborative effort that saw the two local superstars remake of the ever popular Hotline hit ‘Jabulan,i’ and furthermore, an entire collaborative Album.
As PJ herself puts it, “I had a hit with Hotline with the song ‘Jabulani’, HHP’s real name is Jabulani and, of course, the Adidas official match ball for the upcoming 2010 World Cup has also been dubbed Jabulani.”
This brilliant triple-score of a word that means “to celebrate” in isiZulu is now a sure-fire hit song that’s destined to have music fans delighted that one of South Africa’s signature songs has now been recast to fit the incredible, at times crazy, country both PJ and HHP call home.
Produced by HHP, the 2010 version of “Jabulani” – dubbed the P & J Remix” – is remarkably faithful to the original Hotline hit, penned by that 80s group’s bass player, George van Dyk.
This unique music project is a journey into South Africa’s past through the inclusion of many of PJ’s hits, like the self-penned monster track “Feel So Strong”, and many others.
2011 sparked a new venture for PJ as she dedicates herself to another love she has developed – Motivational speaking. PJ has created a platform in the form of her own company called ‘The Power of Appreciation,’ where she will spend most of her time conducting inspirational and motivating speaking forums, based on her life and her experiences, her trials and tribulations and on how these factors have inspired her to became the person she is today.
- Mojapelo, Max (18 March 2009). Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music. African Minds. pp. 125–126. ISBN 978-1-920299-28-6. Retrieved 13 June 2010.