Mzansi Profiles! Places Brenda Fassie Biography: Early Life | Music Career | Personal Life | Death

Brenda Fassie Biography: Early Life | Music Career | Personal Life | Death

Brenda Fassie Biography: Early Life | Music Career | Personal Life | Death post thumbnail image

This is the biography of the late music icon Brenda MaBrrr Fassie, a South African singer, songwriter, dancer, and activist whose music became the soundtrack for many during the apartheid era. Brenda’s voice remained a beacon of hope and resistance, resonating deeply with the people of South Africa and beyond until her untimely death on May 9, 2004.

 

Early Life and Rise to Fame

Brenda Nokuzola Fassie’s early life was marked by a blend of hardship and the discovery of her musical talent. Born on November 3, 1964, in Langa, a township near Cape Town, she was the youngest of nine children. Her father died when she was only two years old, leaving her mother, a pianist, to raise the family. Brenda’s musical journey began at a very young age, singing to her mother’s accompaniment. By the age of five, she was already performing for tourists, earning money with her voice.

Her talent was undeniable, and at the age of 16, Brenda’s life changed when she was visited by producer Hendrick ‘Koloi’ Lebona. Recognising her potential, Lebona invited her to move to Soweto, Johannesburg, to pursue a career in music. Brenda joined the vocal group Joy and later became the lead singer for the band Brenda and the Big Dudes. It was with this group that she recorded the hit single “Weekend Special,” which propelled her to fame.

ALSO READ: Mbongeni Ngema Biography: Early Life | Career | Personal Life | Death

 

Brenda Fassie Early Music Career

Brenda and the Big Dudes’s hit single “Weekend Special” was released in 1983 and became a huge success, not only in South Africa but also internationally. The song established Brenda as a pop sensation and earned her the title “Queen of African Pop”. They toured the US, Europe, Australia and Brazil, thanks to the smash hit.

 

Brenda Fassie Biography

Brenda Fassie Biography [Image: YouTube]

 

During the late 1980s, Brenda continued to release successful albums such as “Ag Shame Lovey” (1987) and “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” (1988). Her music often reflected the realities of life in the townships, and she used her platform to voice opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

In 1989, Brenda released the album “Too Late for Mama”, which further solidified her status as a leading figure in the music industry.

 

Personal Struggles From The Late 80s To 90s

The late 1980s and early 1990s were also a tumultuous time for Brenda. She had a son, Bongani, in 1985 with a fellow Big Dudes musician, and in 1989, she married Nhlanhla Mbambo, but the couple divorced in 1991.

In the early 1990s, Brenda became addicted to cocaine, which had a detrimental effect on her career. Despite these challenges, she continued to produce music and released the song “Black President” in 1990 as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who was still a political prisoner at the time.

Brenda’s career slowed down in the early 90s due to her addiction, but she made a significant comeback later in the decade.

ALSO READ: Mampintsha Biography| Real Name, Career, Big Nuz, Babes Wodumo, Death

 

The Brenda Fassie Comeback

Brenda Fassie Biography

Brenda Fassie Biography [Image: Joe Sefale/Sunday Times/Gallo Images]

 

In 1995, she was discovered in a hotel with the body of her female lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of an apparent overdose. This incident led to Brenda undergoing rehabilitation and working to get her career back on track.

From 1996 onwards, Brenda released several solo albums, including “Now Is the Time” (1996), “Paparazzi” (1997), and “Memeza” (1998), which was the best-selling album in South Africa in 1998. Her album “Nomakanjani” followed in 1999, marking a successful period in her career despite the earlier setbacks.

In 1999, Brenda Fassie was at the peak of her career. She won the Kora Award for Best Female Artist. Her album “Nomakanjani” reached triple platinum status within a few months of its release.

 

Recognition and Awards

For four consecutive years, Brenda won the South African Music Awards (SAMA) award for best-selling release with her albums “Memeza,” “Amadlozi,” “Nomakanjani,” and “Mina Nawe”. Her song “Vulindlela” was Song of the Year, and her album “Memeza” was the best-selling album in South Africa in 1998.

In 2001, Time magazine featured a three-page special on Brenda, calling her “The Madonna of the Townships.” This nickname was a testament to her influence and status as a pop icon not just in South Africa but across the continent.

 

Brenda Fassie Personal Life

Brenda Fassie Biography

Brenda Fassie Biography [Image: SowetanLIVE]

 

Fassie’s personal life was as vibrant and tumultuous as her music career. She married three times and had a son, Bongani, in 1985 with a fellow musician from the Big Dudes. Brenda’s relationships and her struggles with substance abuse were often in the public eye. She was famous for her outspoken views and her visits to the poorer townships of Johannesburg, using her music to oppose apartheid.

In 1995, Brenda was found in a hotel with the body of her female lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of an apparent overdose. This incident led to Brenda undergoing rehabilitation and working to get her career back on track. However, she still faced challenges with drug addiction, returning to rehabilitation clinics about 30 times throughout her life.

Brenda Fassie was also one of Africa’s first openly gay pop stars, and she was unapologetic about her identity. Despite the violent opposition and lack of legal protection for LGBTQ individuals at the time, she was defiant and proud of her relationships with women.

 

Death

Tragically, Brenda passed away on May 9, 2004, at the age of 39. She suffered cardiac arrest after being in a coma for several weeks following a drug overdose. Post-mortem examinations also showed that she had overdosed on cocaine prior to falling into the coma. Her death was a significant loss to the music world and to the many fans who admired her for her music and her courage to live authentically.

 

References

Leave a Reply

Related Post