PJ Powers

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Penelope Jane Dunlop
Also known asPJ Powers, Thandeka
Born (1960-07-16) 16 July 1960 (age 59)
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

PJ Powers is the stage name of the music artist Penelope Jane Dunlop (born 16 July 1960). She became a household name at home after winning a song competition on national radio with her version of the Don Clarke song, Sanbonani. The final stage of the song competition was televised, bringing[1] P J Powers to the attention of the wider South African public. Sanbonani was a hit record at home. Featuring on the Ladysmith Black Mambazo recording of World in Union in 1995 provided an international hit when it charted in the UK (no 47 on the singles charts). [2]

She is well known for her anti-apartheid activism.[citation needed]

Early life and career[edit]

Penelope Jane Dunlop was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on 16 July 1960.[3] Her singing career kicked off in 1979 when she became the lead singer of an all female group called Pantha. It disbanded after a year. PJ Powers went on to front a new band, Hotline. Their sound, afro-pop fusion music framing PJ Powers' distinctive voice, attracted an expanded, cross cultural fan base.

The band lasted for seven years and produced some of the biggest local hits of the 1980s. The formula of young, energetic musicians performing vibrant music in all areas was well accepted by their youthful target audience. Some fans started calling PJ Powers by a nickname, Thandeka ("loved one"), a name that she still uses today.[4] Hotline took music to the people. This increased their popularity and grew their fan base in the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.

Combining music that people could dance to with messages of hope and reconciliation was different to what was played on the radio at the time. "Jabulani" (written by bass guitarist George van Dyk who later formed his own band called Wozani.) was the first big hit. Powers followed up by writing some hits of her own - "You're So Good to Me" (1982), "Feel So Strong" (1983 duet with Steve Kekana), "Home to Africa" (1985), "There Is an Answer" (1986) were her own work. P J Powers had honed her craft as a songwriter

Hotline disbanded in 1987 and Powers pursued a solo career.[5]

Solo career[edit]

1988 - P.J Powers was. 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.

1995 - The Ladysmith Black Mambazo recording "World in Union" (feat P J Powers) reached no. 47 on the UK Singles Chart,.[6] 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 developed the Afropop genre further, cementing her receptive audience in the black market. She kept the nickname, "Thandeka" -"the loved one".

P J Powers has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Hugh Masekela, Divine Divas, Lord Richard Attenborough, Richard E. Grant, Sibongile Khumalo, Janet Suzman and others. She sang for Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela.

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.

2003 - Powers wrote a song for Mandela's 85th birthday and sang for him and his party. Guests included Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

2009 - Powers' recording of "World in Union" was featured in the Academy Award–nominated film, Invictus.

Honours and awards[edit]

  • 2000 - Nelson Mandela presented Powers with a commemorative limited edition gold coin
  • Appointed as a South African Tourism Ambassador
  • 2003 - June - The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation honoured P J Powers and Sibongile Khumalo with their prestigious annual award, promoting reconciliation by "singing people together"
  • 2004 - Voted 93rd in the Top 100 Great South Africans.
  • 2003 - September -Supermarket chain Pick 'n Pay Stores nominated her as one of their "Stars of Charity" recognising that she "made a difference in uplifting the youth of South Africa"
  • 2013 - July - 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.


  1. ^ Thamm, Marianne (2014). Here I Am. https://www.vitalsource.com/en-uk/products/pj-powers-here-i-am-marianne-thamm-v9780143531524?duration=perpetual: Random House Struik. pp. Chapter 3. ISBN 9780143531524.
  2. ^ "World in Union '95 (song by Ladysmith Black Mambazo) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". www.musicvf.com. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Penelope Jane Dunlop". South African History Online. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  4. ^ Powers, P J (24 October 2019). "P J Powers Official". P J Power - Thandeka. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website - UK Charts - SA acts 1952–1988". rock.co.za. Retrieved 17 December 2018.