Yvonne Chaka Chaka: Princess adds accolade

Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been awarded a lifetime achievement award.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been awarded a lifetime achievement award.

Africa's princess, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, was delightfully surprised when the Zanzibar International Film Festival awarded her with a lifetime achievement award last Friday.

Chaka Chaka was recognised for her contribution to music since 1985, which has made her a favourite in Africa.

Music is not her only gift - she also excels in the role of mother to four boys, is an entrepreneur, businesswoman and a philanthropist.

The renowned musician, whose real name is Yvonne Machaka, was on the island to sing at the 22nd Zanzibar International Film Festival hosted at Ngome Kongwe and to teach African youngsters about her music.

Chaka Chaka performed her hit songs including Umqombothi, Motherland and the unforgettable I'm In Love with a DJ from her debut album.

"Every award to me is big because it's unexpected, one does work without expectations so every award to me is quite big, acceptable and exciting, even after 34 years in the music industry.

"Nobody told me about this award, it came as a very big surprise because I had gone to the film festival, which has a music element, to do master classes with young people as part of the Princess of Africa Foundation," she says.

She recalls that she yearned to become a singing superstar and entered Sugar Shack, a talent show in 1981.

She was the first black child to appear on SA television screens.

Her talent was discovered at the age of 19 by Phil Hollis of Dephon Records.

She was performing around Soweto, her home town.

She went on to sing alongside SA greats as well as international stars including Bono, Angelique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, and Queen.

And after establishing her own production company, Chaka Chaka proudly owns all her music.

The 54-year-old from Dobsonville, who is currently in Congo Brazzaville, says she unfortunately had no chance to celebrate this award, added to her other accolades over the years. She had to immediately rush off for her other passion - humanitarian work.

As the UN International Children's Emergency Fund ambassador, she had to meet with ministers with the aim of finding a way forward with matters of child development.

The organisation is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the convention on the rights of the child and, as Princess of Africa Foundation founder, Chaka Chaka will help to mobilise the private sector and government to rally around a shared value partnership that will leverage resources for all children in Congo.

Apart from her music and humanitarian work, she also made her way back to the TV screen as a no-nonsense matriarch called Gladys on the SABC2 drama Giyani: Land Of Blood.

In 2009, she starred in her debut feature film, Foreign Demos, as Josephine.

Chaka Chaka also has two diplomas from the University of South Africa, one in adult education, another in local government management and administration.

She is currently studying business management.

"I play golf, I sleep a bit and just spend time with my family, my friends and all loved ones."

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