PJ Powers

PJ Powers South African singer

She burst onto the stage – a blonde juggernaut, husky and alive – and sang about the Highland. In Scotland. It was perfect. It made no sense but it was perfect. Highland or Highveld—no one was counting. The stars of a summer sky, the long grass rustling in the breeze, my best friend sitting next to me…and PJ Powers.

We sang Stay like we’d lived and loved, and pretended we knew the words to Take My Breathe Away because our moms had totally let us watch Top Gun. Neither Andre Schwartz nor Trevor Sampson, not Trevor Weir and his Spanish Train and not even my mom singing in the choir at the back, held sway against PJ.

We sauntered backstage after, and there she was—still blonde, a juggernaut, husky and so alive. ‘You were the two girls who kept screaming my name.’ Us? Not us. We’re way cooler than that, sorry PJ.

Just as easily as PJ Powers and the Johannesburg Pops slipped into the recesses of childhood with the power of thirteen, so too did the voice of home emerge in a place least expected. A rugby field.

There’s a dream, I feel
So rare, so real

That feeling.

Afterword: In the nineties, my mom sang in the SABC choir, which accompanied the National Symphony Orchestra and a star-studded cast of lead singers (whose prestige was lost on little ol’ me) and we were lucky enough to go a couple of times. Using PJ as a guide (literally the only singer I remember at these events), I managed track down the setlist the Johannesburg Pops that is clearest in my memory. It’s on CD (selling on Bidorbuy.co.za if anyone’s interested) so I couldn’t listen to the original but I translated the setlist into Spotify and the memories came flooding back, in a feeling best described as familiarity. That nostalgic feeling you know but can’t quite articulate. I’ve tried, in my little story, which is really an ode to the blonde juggernaut who took the stage by storm at the Pops, and who continues to break my heart with feelings of home. These days, I can’t listen to World In Union with out tears.

P.s. Thank you, my bestie Winsome, for yelling alongside me. Damn, we had fun!

Johannesburg Pops South Africa CD 90s

Lest I forget…

  1.   Take my breath away (PJ Powers & Choir) 
  2.   Love’s theme (Orchestra) 
  3.   It’s a sin (Andre Scwartz & Choir) 
  4.   You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling (Graham Weir, Trever Sampson & Choir) 
  5.   Highland (PJ Powers & Choir) 
  6.   Blowin’ in the wind (V & Choir) 
  7.   Radio Ga Ga (Graham Weir & Choir) 
  8.   Stay (PJ Powers & Choir) 
  9.   Hard to say I’m sorry (Trevor Sampson, Graham Weir) 
  10.   Can’t take my eyes off you (Andre Schwartz & Choir)
  11.   Sounds like a melody (Orchestra) 
  12.   The happening (PJ Powers) 
  13.   Careless whisper (Trevor Sampson & Choir) 
  14.   Sanibonani (PJ Powers & Choir) 
  15.   Time and the river (Andre Schwartz & Choir) 
  16.   Spanish Train (Graham Weir)

Last thing. PJ once said:

Living in Joburg is like being part of the world, in comparison to a city like Cape Town, which doesn’t have enough Africa in it. Durban is too parochial, Capetonians are too full of themselves, whereas Joburgers are incredibly friendly and cosmopolitan. We don’t have a mountain or the sea but we have so much more. Being in the city gives one a sense of living and being together. Joburgers are self-sufficient. Anyway, the sea is just a short journey away.

Gotta love her.


Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

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