03 November 2011

The late Brenda Fassie – a legend in the South African music scene, was born in November!

On November 3, 1964, the Madonna of the South African music scene was born in Langa Township, Cape Town.

She grew up to be a music legend who won many hearts and commanded respect nationally and abroad. She was a free-spirited individual who lived her life to the fullest, so to speak.

She was known for her outrageous ways about things which, when questioned about, she would simply say "the only things I regret in my life are those which I haven't done or experienced, everything else has been a learning curve."

She was the youngest of nine children and she was named after an American country singer Brenda Lee. She demonstrated her extraordinary musical talent at a young age - at only age five, she already had tourists paying to hear her sing.

She moved to Johannesburg at age 16 in a bid to pursue her music career - she first joined a group called Joy and then she moved on to become a lead singer in a township pop group, Brenda and the Big Dudes. This is where her career skyrocketed - she later went solo and became even more successful.

She was outspoken about the injustices of apartheid, something that earned her a fair amount of fame and recognition in political circles.

Most of her albums became multi-platinum sellers on the shelves and she was thus affectionately referred to as The Queen of (African) Pop. Despite her stardom and celebrity status, she was remarkably humble and would quite often be seen around townships having fun with ordinary folks - a trait that made her even more popular.

She did, however, enjoy a fair amount of controversy, the first culminating from her very short marriage to Nhlanhla Mbambo whom she married in 1989 and divorced in 1991. The country had hoped it would last as it was deemed a fairytale wedding fit for a princess.

Then it was the allegations surrounding her sexuality as she had a few lesbian lovers. In the midst of it all, there was a chronic drug addiction which brought her in and out of rehab centres. On one occasion she was found with the body of her lesbian lover in a hotel room after she had died from a drug overdose. This incident seemed to have affected her greatly and she cleaned herself up for a while - but it never lasted!

She succumbed to cocaine addiction once again, until it allegedly led to her death in 2004. She was admitted in a Johannesburg hospital, after purportedly suffering from an asthma attack which landed her in a coma. She never recovered until her death on the 9th of May 2004, aged 39.

While in hospital she was visited by former presidents Nelson Mandela, who is said to be a relative, and Thabo Mbeki. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, her family and her partner are reported to have been at her bedside when she died.

Mabrr (her nickname) was blessed with a son named Bongani in 1985, who followed in his mother's footsteps as a singer and producer.

Visit the SAHA hosted website to read more about Brenda Fassie and details of her memorial artwork which was built as part of the Sunday Times Heritage Project.