Ten years ago today, on May 9th, 2004, we lost the amazing queen of Afropop - the one and only Miss Brenda Fassie.
Known for hits such as ‘Weekend Special’, ‘Vuli’Ndlela’, ‘Too Late for Mama’ and ‘Black President’, the Langa-born singer rose to fame after moving to Soweto at age 16 to pursue her dreams of music and stardom. But her fame journey was far from an easy or smooth one. After blowing up with her debut 1983 single ‘Weekend Special’, Brenda Nokuzola Fassie toured with her band ‘Brenda and the Big Dudes’ to the United States, Britain, Europe, Australia and Brazil - a rarity for black South African artists during that time. However, towards the end of the decade, Brenda became a tabloid fixture for her lavish lifestyle.
Even at a time when South African politics was reaching a radical stage, Brenda’s eccentric ways, bisexuality and glamourous appearance was a little to extreme for some to handle. With all the fame, attention, fortune and even more misfortune she began to be on the receiving end on, Brenda’s personal and professional life began to spiral as she became addicted to drugs. After years of drug abuse in the early 90s, Brenda bounced back into the music industry with her 1995 comeback album Now is the Time, which she also produced. Over the next years, Fassie’s popularity would only continue to rise with the release of her Memeza album. Memeza, which featured songs such as ‘Qula’ and ‘Vuli’Ndlela’,was the best selling album of 1998 and won South African Music Awards and a Kora Award for her efforts. The next year, she released another album, the iconic Nomakanjani that reached triple platinum status within months of its release, certifying Brenda as one of the country’s greatest stars of all time.
Despite her incredible professional gains, Brenda lost her personal battle against drug addiction after she passed away from a drug overdose on May 9th, 2004. She was 39 years old.
Brenda Fassie wasn’t just an entertainer, she was a conscious singer with strong anti-apartheid message that can be heard in many of her songs.
To celebrate her memory ten years after her passing, Fassie is due to be honored with a legacy tour in South Africa. As of 2006, a life-size bronze statue of the singer and activist, by artist Angus Taylor, stands outside of Bassline in Johannesburg.
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