Brenda Fassie, the renegade who spoke for the people
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Brenda Fassie was the kind of woman you didn’t forget. Her wild and independent style helped her make a name for herself, and allowed her to become a familiar voice and face for the disenfranchised in South Africa. as the anniversary of her birthday comes up (November 3, 1964), we would like to remember who she was.
Popularly known to her fans as MaBrr, she started her musical career as a young girl, singing for tourists while her mother played the piano. She later went on to join the group, Joy, then became lead singer for the group Brenda And The Big Dudes. She had her son, Bongani, with one of the musicians in the group.
Fassie married Nhlanhla Mbambo in 1989 but they were divorced in 1991. It was during this time that she got addicted to cocaine which affected her career. It wasn’t until her lover, Poppie Sihlahla, died of an overdose, that she got help for her addiction.
Back on track, she continued to release several very popular albums including Now Is The Time, Memeza, and Nomakanjani?. She still continued to battle addiction and was in and out of rehabilitation centers. In 2004 she collapsed and fell into a coma that was attributed to an overdose of cocaine. She later died at the tender age of 39.
Despite the tragedy and drama of her personal life, one cannot deny that she was exceptionally talented, providing us with songs that captured the very essence of life in South Africa. With hits like ‘Vulindela’ (which had wide international appeal), ‘Wedding Day’, and ‘South Africa’, she helped us feel the joy and spirit that was such a part of South Africa’s community.
Her tribute to Nelson Mandela, ‘Black President‘ was dedicated to him, long before he became president. The song was banned from the airwaves during apartheid, but in 1994 she was able to perform it for Mandela during his inauguration ceremony.
Her unique voice, strong vocal delivery, and expressive dance and action routines made her a fan favorite. Firmly entrenched as a Kwaito queen, she helped make the genre a household staple. We wish you a happy birthday Brenda Fassie. May you rest in peace, and thank you for your fantastic contribution to our music collections.