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​​Jozi 'best place in Africa'​
​​download (13).jpgSinger​ Mara Louw thinks Jozi is the best place to be in Africa - it's a place where "everything happens, where people go out and get it".

Louw is well-established in the music scene - she's been singing as a professional for the past 25 years. She started singing at the age of 10 with the predecessor of the Imilonji Kantu Choral Society, these days one of South Africa's most prestigious choral groups. She toured Asia with them, completing the tour in London, where she performed for the queen in 1975. The following year she went solo.

Louw was born in Soweto, and although she lives in the northern suburbs these days, she spends a lot of time in the township, particularly having vetkoek breakfasts on Sunday mornings.

"I wouldn't trade Johannesburg for anything," she enthuses.

Louw has appeared in a string of shows including The crucible, Showboat, Best little whorehouse in Texas, and Nkosi the healing song.

In 1984 she picked up the "Best Female vocalist" title from Radio Sotho and Radio Zulu. She's won two Artes Awards, for her album Mara in 1984, and "Best Performance" with the National Symphony Orchestra in the Joburg Pops Concert in 1992.

She's recently hit the headlines for her comments as a judge in M-Net's Idols, complaining that the contestants were singing largely European songs, in a non-African style. She suggests M-Net considers an African Idols competition.

But she's enjoyed the challenge of being a judge in Idols, and says she would love to do it again, if asked.

Although she finds little time to soak up the city, she enjoys football and boxing, although is herself not a sporty person. When she does have free time, she relaxes at home, or heads off to Soweto.

When asked, she says she wouldn't categorise herself as a particular type of singer - she enjoys singing jazz, blues, traditional . . . but won't ever sing kwaito, she says with a laugh.

She lists her influences as Miriam Makeba, Ma (Albertina) Sisulu, and "despite her faults", Winnie Madikizela Mandela.

Her most memorable singing performances were singing at Wembley Stadium in London for the Mandela concert in 1990. At home it's her performance for Operation Hunger in the early 1980s at Ellis Park.

She's just finished playing the lead role of Miss Sherman in Fame at Pretoria's State Theatre. The musical moves to Cape Town over December and January, which means that Louw will spend Christmas in Cape Town, a prospect she's not particularly looking forward, being away from Jozi for so long.

"That's going to be an experience!" she says, laughing. But adds, as if to comfort herself: "At least I'll have my husband with me."​