MARA LOUW - Mara (1982)

Head's/Polydor/Trutone,  HEDL5575
Producers: Emil Zoghby & John Galanakis
Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Recorded at: RPM Studios (cut & mastered at: The Master Room, London)

All-round entertainer Mara Louw was still a sweet young thing in 1982, where she released this album, which opens with a funky cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River", three years after the song first launched the Talking Heads into mainstream success. Other highlights include the disco-soul of "Playing with Fire" and the jazz funk of "I Can't Stop." This is a surpisingly slick album with almost no local influence.

One of Mzansi's most enduring stars, she was around long before the bubblegum days and continues to be an influential figure in SA music and TV, most recently as a host of Idols, where she unashamedly took on the show's apparent lack of black talent.

"Mara Teboho Louw was born in July 1952 in Mzimhlophe, Soweto. Like many of our powerful voices she started singing in a church choir. Some of her first awards was for best alto soloist while in Wilbur Baqwa's Wilbur Music group. Versatile Mara also acted in Gibson Kentre's Sikhalo and in 1970 she joined the musical Meropa which toured Japan, Hong Kong, Britain and the Philippines. While in London with the musical, she had the honour to perform for the Queen. She went solo in 1976 and performed in countries like former South West Africa (Namibia) in cabaret. She also had a lead role in the musical African Odyssey. When American Joe Walker revived King Kong in 1979, she played the leading role. She also toured the former protectorates in cabaret and played the role of Tituba in The Crucible. Other musicals she featured in include Ekhaya, Nkosi the Healing Song, My Name in Alice, Baby Come Duze, Fame and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

"Mara enthralled crowds at the Concert in the Park with the hit Motlalepula, which was later included in the album of the event. In 1984 Radio Zulu (Ukhozi FM) and Radio Sesotho (Lesedi FM) nominated her for the Best Singer category in their music awards. Her 1986 mini-album 50 50 Makes 100% featured the title track and Love Train produced by Mally Watson on CCP's Flame label. Amongst the many albums she featured on as backing vocalist is Hugh Masekela's Waiting for the Rain (Vuka Afrika, 1985). In 1985 she married Bill, but later they went their separate ways. By 1988 she was leading the South Africa Musicians Alliance (SAMA). In 1992 she won an Artes Award for Best Recording. Among her career highlights she counts  performing for the Queen of Denmark. Some of Mara Teboho Louw's hits include "Take Me to the River", "Good Love" and "Iphi'Ndlela".

"Mara, who is a bombshell on stage also featured in one of my favourite movies, Taxi to Soweto which starred Patrick Shai. In 1995 she was nominated in the SABC's Artes Awards for her album Mara. The all-rounder she is, she played a leading role in the first tshiVenda tv drama series, Muvhango, on SABC2 as Catherine Mukhwevho. She also became a judge on M-Net's television reality talent contents, Idols. In 2007 she hosted her own television show, Mara Louw and Friends on SABC and later joined RIchard Loring's musical Hairspray." (Mojapelo 2008:90)