|death of an icon (standard:non fiction, 721 words)|
|Author: DAVID TUMUSIIME||Added: Jun 02 2004||Views/Reads: 1940/0||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|bout singer brenda fassie|
Death Of An African Icon It is strange how we never see some deaths coming that with hindsight are so obvious. Brenda Fassie's passing away on May 9, 2004 is surely one demise we all ought have been able to foresee. No other well-known or equally talented African singer-celebrity seemed more firmly railroaded to self-destruction than Brenda Fassie. The last born of nine children born in a black township just outside Cape Town from a domestic worker, no sooner at only 18 had Brenda Fassie begun to establish herself as a singer with The Dudes remembered especially for their single ‘Weekend Special,' she abruptly decided to go solo, a move that for many singers often leads to the end of their careers as they fail to hack it on their own. As if not content with enmity from The Dudes and their fans (they named their next album after her departure "Hamba Uzobuya" or "Yeah, Go, but You'll Come Back"), Brenda Fassie openly flaunted her bisexuality riling the white segregationist South African government and many blacks who thought she was doing harm to their cause for dignity and freedom. To compound her problems when she was not engaging in “love that dare not speak it's name” with fellow women, she not only fell into relationships with men who fleeced her. She married a former jailbird, Nhlanhla Mbambo, in 1989 only to divorce him in 1991 allegedly for battering her. Nhlanhla not only beat her, along with many hangers-on, he was emptying her purse too. Meanwhile Brenda had taken to missing one too many concerts lost in an alcohol daze on her good days. So badly off were her finances that one time her son, Bongani, now 20, was asked to leave his grammar school when she could not pay tuition. This when she was very famous already! But to cap it all was her cocaine addiction that should have alerted her fans all was not joi de vivre. She was found in 1995 a seedy Johannesburg hotel next to the body of her lesbian lover. Yet when she was rushed to Sunninghill Hospital north of Johannesburg unconscious we were still surprised. All these incidents factored in, you could say her death was long overdue, that the past five years she had been living on borrowed time. But Brenda Fassie was unique from other greats who live a sort of posthumous existence because their legendary exploits belong to the past. Even as Brenda was unraveling, her music, her glorious voice seemed to not be a part of her wrecked body, getting better and better. Take one of her latest 1999 hits Vulindlela. The opening of this song is breathstopping. The pure high siren voice is spine tingling and immediately transports a listener into regions he or she has not long visited, places of innocence and freshness. She forces the listener off to memories of childhood and it is astonishing to realize a 34 year old woman could sing with such heartbreaking candour that reminds you of a child's innocence and at the same time a timid virgin's trembly expectations for her wedding night for Vulindlela is Brenda's wedding song. In many tributes from around the world, Brenda Fassie was compared to American pop singer Madonna with the implication that this was high praise for Brenda. Time magazine dubbed Brenda "The Madonna of the Townships.” Various commentators bemoaned her untimely death just when she was on the point of “becoming Africa's first superstar” in tributes that not only smacked of underhanded attempts at trivializing her accomplishments but were an insult. Brenda would have been more fairly compared to early 20th century Grande dame of American jazz Bessie Smith. Like Bessie Smith, Brenda Fassie was not just a performer, she was a spirit of her time and her people made flesh in her and her piercing golden voice was the upsurge of a community. She was the spirit that after the Sharpsville massacres refused to be cowered, she was the will that like Steve Biko and so many thousands beaten and tortured and left to die slowly in dark closet space cells while the bruised body gave out the heart refused to capitulate. Like Bessie Smith for the American Negroes, Brenda Fassie was the crying voice in the wilderness singing of the Promised Land. Tweet
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