South African magazine, issue 86, 1996
By Fanakithi Xala
Miss Thandi is Raymond Matinyana,
she's the toast of the drag circuit in Amsterdam who hails from
small-town Port Alfred. I met her at the bar in 58, in a little
black number with her hair up, and, being the intrepid journalist,
set up an interview.
I met Raymond for lunch a few days later at Gershwin's in Yeoville. Our long and well-oiled session was interrupted repeatedly. People crossed the street to greet him. How did this 27 year old get so far?
First he left the small town, finished his schooling in Soweto. Then he studied Speech and Drama for three years at Fuba Academy. During this time he got some small TV roles and parts in occasional plays. He did the backing vocals for Sophie Mgcinga, was part of an educative play staged by AIDS Outreach, and did benefit drag shows at Zipps on the side.
Then he went to the States after being accepted by Up with People, an international intercultural arts education programme based in Denver, which gives young people the opportunity to explore the world through music and dance. In the year he was on the programme he travelled through America doing presentations and entertaining in schools, hospitals, old-age homes, hospices. The troupe also toured Europe.
All this took money. Raymond did some chorale and African dance work, and of course there was drag on the side. He formed a band in Holland with some other South African's living there. Initially called Amazilot (as in zealot), the band subsequently became Tribal Countdown. They toured South Africa in '95, opening Radio Freedom in Bertrams. Their CD, called Shack Jive, will be out in June.
The drag shows on the side have become an important source of income. Miss Thandi has performed and won prizes at famous Dutch clubs like Havana and Roxy, appeared at conventions, launched Ronny Kasrils' book, hosted the Queen's Day gala, and even back here on holiday she has officiated at some functions, like the Miss Valentine competition at Skyline, the opening of a restaurant in Cape Town. And I was privileged to see her perform at Bob's Bar in Troyeville on Wednesday 26 February.
This is no lip-sync queen. Thandi appeared in a variation of traditional Xhosa costume, and performed some well-known local songs which the lusty audience joined in and loved. The singing and dancing were polished and professional, and Raymond is clearly an accomplished perfomer, particularly adept at interaction with the audience. When he did eventually do some lip-sync numbers there were some hilarious send-up aspects in lip, eyebrow and hand movements.
I asked Raymond why he had chosen the drag name Thandi. He told me that he was not doing Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick much any more ("20 000 other black drags do") but was now concentrating on being an African drag, with numbers by Miriam Makeba, Margaret Singana and Brende Fassie. He chose the name Thandi because it is a common South African name meaning the one who is loved.
He also confessed that one of his secret desires is to appear on the cover of Thandi magazine! Hamba kahle, nthombi.