Dark City Sisters, A Lesson In Music Innovation

The Dark City Sisters have touched many people’s hearts and souls for many decades.

From their early days, the Sisters were a group of session singers who came together to record an album and in the process popularized an innovative new style of singing.

Rather than singing a common four-part harmony, the Sisters used five parts, which created a richer tone.

And sometimes known as “vocal jive,” this technique was subsumed under the umbrella term “mbaqanga,” meaning, literally, dumpling, and figuratively, a homegrown style.

Since the group’s formation in 1958, the Dark City Sisters was a South African female vocal group formed by music producer Rupert Bopape.

The lady’s group recorded several hit records during the 1960s, helping usher in the mbaqanga style of South African music, which later was brought to global prominence by the Mahotella Queens.

Bopape, who founded the Sisters was also a talent scout, at EMI South Africa.

Also, the group named after Alexandra Township, known at the time as ‘Dark City’ due to its lack of street lighting.

The Four founding members were Joyce Mogatusi, Francisca Mngomezulu, Hilda Mogapi and Esther Khoza.

Their close harmonies were often combined with a single male vocalist, at a time when most bands consisted of a female lead backed up by a group of men.

In their early days they were fronted by vocalist Jack Lerole and later by Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde. Their backing band was the Alexandra Black Mambazo.

And the new style of the Dark City Sisters proved very popular as they enjoyed several hits during the 1960s, also touring South Africa and neighbouring countries.


Membership changed frequently, with group vocalists such as Francisca Mngomezulu and Caroline Kapentar later singing for the Mahotella Queens.

Lead singer Joyce Mogatusi remained the only consistent link throughout the Dark City Sisters line-up. The second-longest serving member of the group was Grace Moeketsi, who sang with the Sisters from 1960.

Furthermore, the group dissolved in 1971 for a short time before reforming in the middle 1970s, primarily as a live performing group although contracted at various points to Gallo-Mavuthela, EMI and CCP.

The 1980s was a decade in which very few recordings of new material were made, with most of their time taken up by concert performances.

By the 1990s and early 2000s, following the explosion of international interest in South African music, the Sisters were fully immersed in concert appearances in the country and continued to make one-off recordings.

Sadly, in July 2012, leader Joyce Mogatusi died from heart failure after 53 years singing for the group.

Photo Credit: http://bradwrolstad.wordpress.com/category/musique-africaine/page/2/




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