Marah Louw

Marah Louw is a South African singer and actress who began singing at the age of 10 with the choir Imilonji Kantu.

Marah Louw, Idols SA judge
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Birth / Real Name:Marah Teboho Louw
Date of Birth:17 July 1952
Age:71 years
Birth Place:Soweto, South Africa
Nationality:South African
Spouse:Bill Thomson (divorced)
Children:Moratuwa Louw
Sibling(s):Siphokazi Zokwana

Marah was a judge on Idols SA for five seasons, these are seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (from 2003 – 2010). After she left the show, she was replaced by Unathi Nkayi.


In 1973 Marah joined Caiphus Semenya’s musical, Meropa, and toured Japan, Hong Kong, The Philippines, South Africa, and London and sang for the Queen at a Royal Command Performance in 1975.

On her return to South Africa, Marah’s solo career took her to Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia.

Marah performed at the Mandela Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, and she sang at the Newsmaker of the Year Awards for Nelson Mandela, 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.

Marah has toured Scotland, England, Wales, Switzerland, France, Egypt, and Denmark, where she performed for the Queen in 1995 and the Prime Minister in 1998.

In 2001 Marah produced the successful musical concert Surf, which featured top South African artists including Hugh Masekela. Marah translated the music of The Lion King into Zulu for the Walt Disney Corporation and performed the theme song Circle of Life in Zulu.

She had a lead role on the SABC2 television soap opera Muvhango and has acted in numerous musicals, stage plays, and feature films.

Marah is a popular choice for corporate events and special dinner functions with a band or backing tracks. Her repertoire includes Lady is a Tramp, Wimawe, the Click Song, Patta Patta, New York, New York, Wind Beneath My Wings, When a Child is Born, and other well-known favorites.

Marah was named Best Female Vocalist by Radio Sotho and Zulu in 1984. She was nominated for an Artes Award for her album Mara and won an Artes Award for Best Performance with the National Symphony Orchestra in the Jo’burg Pops Concerts.

In 2007 she hosted her own cooking show on SABC2 called Mara Louw and Friends, in which she interviewed celebrities while cooking with them.

In 2010 she starred in the first season of the SABC2 sitcom Skwizas, about a group of elderly friends (“skwizas”) as they bustle through the idiosyncrasies of life in Skywards Retirement Village. She left the show after one season and her role was not recast.

In 2013 she starred as Girlie in the first season of SABC1’s Friday night drama series Tempy Pushas, returning in 2015 for Season 2 and in 2016 for Season 3.

Also in 2013, Marah starred in the Mzansi Magic miniseries Life Father Like Son, which was developed as part of the Lokshin Bioskop Series strand.

The series tells the story of a pastor’s son, Themba, who is handed the reigns of his father’s church when the elderly reverend dies and has to balance his newfound responsibilities with his past reputation as a hard-partying, wild-living playboy.

In 2015 she landed the starring role of Ma Mgcina, Boss’s doting mother who lives in Soweto, in the eKasi+ / sitcom B&B.

In 2016 she began starring in the Mzansi Magic telenovela The Queen.


In October 2010, Marah was involved in some controversy after she appeared drunk in an episode of Idols South Africa that was filmed on Friday 1 October 2010, and aired on M-Net on Sunday 3 October 2010.

During the episode, Marah was clearly slurring her words and appeared to be confused to the extent that she even cursed on live television and also refused to comment on contestant Adeline Mocke’s performance.

Rumours of Marah being drunk only began circulating online the next day on Monday 4 October 2010, she then responded by attributing her errant behavior to pain medication, which she was taking due to a broken bone in her foot.

M-Net was also quick to defend her and further confirmed that Marah was disoriented because of the pain medication that she had taken. “That affected her seriously because she was exhausted,” said M-Net’s communications manager Lani Lombard.

However on Tuesday 5 October 2010 during an interview with John Robbie on Radio 702, Marah Louw admitted to being drunk while on the set of Idols SA.

She confirmed that she had consumed an energy drink, a Red Bull to be exact, and vodka that was given to her by fellow judge Gareth Cliff before filming the episode, these were consumed in addition to strong pain medication taken for her broken toe.

Marah Louw speaking to Gareth Cliff
Marah Louw speaking to Gareth Cliff during an Idols SA live show, the two judges were buddies.

Marah went on to explain that she was exhausted as a result of a heavy schedule and drank a Red Bull with vodka to counteract her exhaustion, she then apologized to the nation and said that it was “not in her character to do such things”.

M-Net then issued a statement that expressed disappointment in Marah’s irresponsible behavior.

“M-Net does not allow crew members, cast, and presenters on any set to consume alcohol prior to a show. It is against our code of conduct and could lead to disciplinary action,” it said.

While M-Net acknowledged and accepted Louw’s apology, Lani Lombard, M-Net’s communications manager, confirmed that the company would not take any action against Marah.

M-Net also officially informed all the Idols SA cast and crew that the company would not, under any circumstances, tolerate behavior on set that could tarnish the reputation of the production.

At the time, Gareth Cliff said that Marah could not claim to be the victim all the time. “Adults must take responsibility for their actions. She’s like Paula Abdul,” he wrote on Twitter.

During an interview with the Sunday Times in October of 2016, Marah said: “That was a terrible time for me. I later learned from one of the contestants and a production member that the drink I was given by one of my colleagues was laced with vodka.”

“You’ll be shocked at what lengths people will go to get you fired in this industry when they want to put in their friends.”

And in her autobiography which was released in early 2017, Marah Louw revealed that the spiking of her drink shortly before the Idols SA live show tarnished her reputation.

Six years after the incident, Gareth Cliff admitted that he had indeed given Marah the vodka drink.

“The vodka incident was one of the more memorable Marah moments,” Cliff wrote in his book Cliffhanger.

“It’s not common practice to have a drink on set, but that evening one of the crew brought a bottle of vodka for a pre-show celebratory drink. I passed Marah her drink and all was well until halfway through the show when she became a touch emotional, or maybe delirious. Needless to say, the press had a field day and I was the one Marah threw under the bus during a radio interview the next day.”

In November of 2016, Gareth Cliff told Sunday Times in an interview that he had no “beef” with Marah Louw.

“I don’t hate Marah. That night I drove her home, made sure she got into her house safely, and then went back to collect my car and drove home. Nobody tells that story.

I loved her, she was like our mama on the show and she’d tell the most hysterical stories and she was great and then she spun out that one night and now it’s everybody else’s fault. I had no beef with her up to the very end, I was one of the people who still called her after the show ended.”

In January 2011, before the auditions of season 7 kicked off, Marah lost her position as an Idols SA judge after her contract was not renewed, she was replaced by Unathi Nkayi. All this was because her relationship with M-Net broke down due to a controversial comment she made when Elvis Blue won the sixth season of Idols SA in 2010.

Marah declared that there would never be a black winner of Idols SA unless it was moved to the SABC, she explained that the show was full of racism and M-Net had to sell the show to the SABC if there was ever going to be a black Idol.

“Lloyd should have won. Finish and klaar,” Marah stated.

“Black people don’t have access to DStv. So a large part of South Africa is excluded. White people vote for white people and black people get the short end of the stick.” Marah further stated.