July 4, 2020

It’s Me, Marah: Review by Beverley Dias

DURBAN, SA – Marah’s autobiography is a spellbinding and fulfilling read. It pulls you in and makes you a thread in the tapestry of the writer’s life. It is an authentic, honest, candid and vulnerable reflection of her life. As much as it is a lesson in history, politics, showbiz and the dark place that is depression. I am Beverley Dias, I love books and this is by far one of the best literature’s I’ve read. Here is why…

It’s Me, Marah: An Autobiography

Marah takes her reader on an interesting journey of the highs of her illustrious music and acting career. Down to the lows of her failed relationships, the physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the men in her life. Including her husband, leading to the eventual demise of her nineteen year marriage to Scotsman Billy Thompson in 2004.

The book is an adventure-filled walk in her shoes and you literally feel her pain and want to scream at her for some of her decisions, especially her tumultuous, toxic relationship with musician Thapelo Mofokeng. She reflects on events which shaped her life and laments the past hurt she had to endure.

This book is equal parts story-of-my-life and finding closure, especially since she forgives the people who wronged her in an effort to move on. It seems the only person she struggles with forgiving (and rightfully so) is Gareth Cliff. In her book, she makes no mention of him, but he comes clean about the incident in his biography, Cliffhanger. In it, he retells how Marah was fired from her gig as a judge on Idols after he spiked her drink with vodka. She was on medication at the time and throughout the show, appeared to be inebriated.

Reputation and Legacy

She admits that this tainted her reputation and is something she struggles to get past. Marah also relates the fateful night of the sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship on the Wild Coast in 1991 where she was invited to perform. She was the only black person on board and it was one of the scariest moments in her career, especially after witnessing the Captain saving his own family and abandoning ship, leaving the other passengers to their own devices. It’s Me, Marah is a fine balance between humor and tragedy with language so vivid, you almost feel you were there.

Marah’s powerful voice catapulted her into the public eye at the tender age of ten when she sang with renowned choir, Imilonji KaNtu, later joining the wildly successful musical, Meropa which took her on a whirlwind tour of Japan, Hong Kong, The Phillipines, South Africa as well as London where she performed for the Queen in 1975. Trying to recount all the countries she has performed in during her career would take eons.

Her prowess and larger-than-life stage presence saw her make her mark in productions like Gibson Kente’s Sikhalo and King Kong.  Marah has also performed in the Mandela Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, at the Newsmaker of the Year Awards for Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk and in honour of the late Chris Hani.

She appeared with Nelson Mandela during his visit to Glasgow in 1993 and sang at George Square and The Royal Concert Hall. In 1994, she sang at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela and for the Freedom Day Celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. With a career spanning over forty years, Marah Louw is considered music royalty. She has also acted on award-winning soapies Muvhango and The Queen. Been a judge on talent shows like Shell Road To Fame in the eighties and well as Idols. All this as a result of the respect gained from her accolades and aplomb in the industry.

She was friends with the who’s who in the business like Miriam Makeba and Caiphus Semenya.  Marah was introduced to the legendary Lebo M when he was just a fourteen year old boy trying to break into the industry.

Love & Race

Some of the most heart wrenching accounts in the tell-all memoir are the racism Marah had to endure while married to a white man during the height of racism and the Group Areas Act as well as her daughter, Moratuoa’s father’s being unavailable. There is also a head on collision into her family secrets and how she was left with endless questions following a family member’s careless revelation when Marah was forty four years old. However, the event which brought me to tears was the gruesome murder of her “sister” Trueblue at the hands of her boyfriend and how events unfolded, leading to his subsequent arrest. Reading about Trueblue hanging onto life long enough to tell Marah the truth about what had transpired left me weeping silently. This is a pain Marah has carried everywhere with her, even though the tragedy took place in 1972 when she was just twenty.

The book opens with Marah tracing her ancestry and trying to piece the puzzle of her life together which leads her to Boomplaats, a village in the Eastern Cape where she is brought face to face with her truth and reality.

In closing

This is one of the most gripping and well written books I have read in a while. It tells the story of a young girl’s trajectory into stardom. With the undercurrent of pain, belief, faith and countless other forces which make people and their stories unique. It gets the nod from me and it’s one of those books which will be enjoyed regardless of gender and age.

Written By: Beverley Dias

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It’s Me, Marah: Review by Beverley Dias

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