“You don’t come around to see me in the week. You don’t have a chance to call me on the phone. I’m no weekend special”. Yes, these could be the words used by a lady to get out of a one-night stand or a fling. But if you if you’re not too young to know or remember, it’s also the lyrics of a well-known song by an artist that requires no introduction. Today marks 10 years after the passing of Brenda Fassie but she still l remains etched in the history of this country.
Born in 1964, in Langa Township in Cape Town, Brenda Fassie (named after country singer Brenda Lee) was already wowing audiences at the age of five. It is said that tourists paid money to hear her voice even at such a young age. Eleven years later, Koloi Lebona, a well known music producer said she was the voice of the future – and that indeed she was.
She began her career as part of a group called Brenda and the Big Dudes. She had a son (Bongani) with one of the band members in 1985. They later got married but in 1999 called it quits after three years. It’s said that she became addicted to cocaine around that time. She battled with her addiction – she went to rehab several times in her life. While she may have lost the battle against drugs, she won the world over by becoming an anti-apartheid singer – protesting with her voice.
One such anti-aparthied song was “I am a Good Black Woman” which was banned by the apartheid government but still became an anthem.
Another would be ” My Black President” released in 1989. The song called for Madiba’s release.
Fassie released 24 albums in her life time, including Amadlozi (2000) , Memeza (1997), Myekeleni (2002), Mina Nawe (2001), just to mention a few.
Fassie won a SAMA for Song of the Decade in 2004 for “Vulindlela”. Memeza sold half a million copies making it the best selling album in 1998. In 2004, she was voted number 17 on the Top 100 South Africans. Her music didn’t only touch her home country but also other parts of the world. “Weekend Special” was featured on the Billboards Top 100 and British charts. But this isn’t all – her recognition for music and awards are too many to mention.
On the 26th of April 2004, she went into cardiac arrest. She slipped into a coma (later reports showed that she had taken an overdose of cocaine). Two weeks later, she died at the age of 39. Ten years ago to the date.
Brenda Fassie will always be remembered, especially as we look back at our road to democracy. Fassie will always be a part of South Africa– its music and its history.Her voice still brings goose bumbs as you hear ” Vulindlela”.
“Vulindlela” and “Weekend Special” are still crowd favourites. “My Black President” will echo through our musical memory banks. Today, we remember the legend that became affectionately became known as Mabrr. Brenda Fassie once said “I wana be loved . I just wanna be loved”. And that she is.