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Sunday, May 9, 2010

MIMI Remembers Brenda Fassie

Written By: MIM!—Known as the “Queen of African Pop” and dubbed by TIME Magazine as the “Madonna of the Townships,” Brenda Fassie, nicknamed Mabrr by her fans, inspired audiences with her uplifting music and profound lyrics, through which she often provided a voice for underprivileged South Africans. Brenda Fassie, who sang in English, Xhosa, Sotho, and Zulu, formed the group Brenda and the Big Dudes and rocketed to fame in 1983 with the song Weekend Special. Mixing African vocals with a slick international pop sound, her songs were especially poignant during the period under apartheid (for example, Black President, which was dedicated to Nelson Mandela, who was in prison at the time), which endeared her to fans and resulted in her dominating the music industry for almost two decades.

Bold, brash, and brilliant, Brenda Fassie said in a 1998 interview: “I'm a shocker. I like to create controversy. It's my trademark.” And shock she did with a turbulent personal life, marred with drug battles, failed relationships, lesbian affairs and headline-grabbing tantrums. Addiction shadowed Brenda Fassie's celebrity, and in the early 1990s, she admitted having a chronic cocaine and alcohol problem, following her separation from her husband Nhlanhla Mbambo amid accusations that he was a wife-beater. In 1995, Brenda Fassie hit rock bottom when she was found in a hotel room, in a drug-induced haze, lying next to the body of her lesbian lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of an apparent drug overdose.

Just when critics had written her career off, Brenda Fassie emerged on the scene with the release of the album Memeza, South Africa's best-selling album of 1998; that same year, Brenda Fassie scooped the Kora Award for best female artist. She was on top of the world, saying: “I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible.” But Brenda Fassie never won her battle with addiction. On 26 April, shortly after the release of Mali, her last album, Brenda Fassie had a severe asthma attack, suffered brain damage and fell into a coma. News of her condition dominated South Africa's headlines for weeks.

Despite her personal battles, there is no denying that Miss Fassie was simply the continent's greatest pop star.

(b. November 3, 1964 – d. May 9, 2004)


Anonymous said...

A great woman who will live on forever.