Who Was Brenda Fassie, The Queen Of African Pop?


South African singer, dancer, songwriter, and campaigner Brend Fassie. The “Queen of African Pop,” the “Madonna of the Townships,” or The Black Madonna are some of her well-known monikers. She was a well-known musician whose songs’ lyrics have a strong emotional impact on South Africans.

Early Life

In Langa, Cape Town, Brenda Nokuzola Fassie was born on November 3rd, 1964. She was given the name Brenda Lee after the well-known American singer. She is a Xhosa woman, and Nokuzola is her traditional name. Of her father’s nine children, she is the youngest.

She lost her father when she was two years old, and her mother, a pianist, reared her. Brenda’s mother was forced to start performing for tourists in order to support Brenda and her other children.


Brenda began her musical career when she was quite young. She started singing, accompanied by her mother. Brenda already has tourists who pay to hear her sing at the age of five. Later, she organized the Tiny Tots, her band.

Koloi Lebona, a renowned producer, paid Brenda a visit in 1981 after hearing about her from a few musicians in Cape Town. Koloi traveled from Johannesburg to see Brenda. Lebona wished to validate the talent that the community was talking about. When Lebona first met Brenda, she remarked that Brenda’s voice was “the voice of the future” because it was so mature for her age.

Brenda eventually moved in with the Lebona family in Soweto. Before starting her music career, she was intended to complete her education, but one of the members of the singing trio Joy took maternity leave. Brenda had to step in for her as a result, and she later rose to the position of lead singer for the township band Brenda and the Big Dudes.

She began her first music career in 1983 and released the number-one single “Weekend Special,” which at the time quickly rose to popularity. Both locally and globally, the song became popular. Due to this success, Brenda and the Big Dudes went on a world tour, visiting Brazil, Australia, Europe, and the United States. Throughout the first 10 years of her music career, she also established herself as a solo pop star.

She collaborated with the well-known “Chicco” producer Sello Twale in the late 1980s. One of the most prosperous collaborations in the South African music industry turned out to be the one between Brenda and Sello. Their collaboration resulted in the album Too Late for Mama, which was certified platinum in 1989.

At this point, she developed a cocaine addiction, which had a negative impact on her career. Brenda, however, became quite well-known because of her fervent beliefs, frequent visits to Johannesburg’s slums, and songs about life there. She also utilized music to protest South Africa’s system of apartheid. She published the song “Black President” in 1989, which was written in honor of Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner who went on to become the country’s first black president.

She was discovered in a hotel room in 1995 alongside the body of Poppie Sihlahla, a woman who had allegedly overdosed and died. Brenda afterwards underwent rehabilitation and regained her career. She needed medical attention at the recovery center, but she still had a drug problem. In her lifetime, she went to the treatment center roughly 30 times.

After leaving recovery, she returned to the music business in 1996. Brenda has released a number of solo albums, including Nomakanjani and Now is the Time, which includes two duets with Memeza and Papa Wemba, two legends of Congolese music. Memeza, Brenda’s best-selling album and the recipient of numerous South African Music Awards in 1998, was among the nearly all of her albums to sell multi-platinum in South Africa. The following year, she also took up the Kora prize for best female artist.

Brenda was the subject of a three-page feature in Time magazine in 2001, where she was dubbed “The Madonna of the Townships.” This illustrates her popularity and presence over the world. She frequently travelled America and the continent of Africa in her final years.

Personal Life

Throughout her life, Brenda Fassie’s personal life was a topic of discussion. She gives birth to a baby named Bongani in 1985 with a fellow Big Dudes musician. In 1989, she later wed Nhlanla Mbambo, and a year later, they were both accused of fraud.

The couple’s divorce was declared in South African press articles in August 1990. Brenda was also bisexual and a drug user, both of which attracted a lot of media attention.


Brenda passed out at her Buccleuch, Gauteng flat on April 26, 2004, and was taken by ambulance to the clinic in Sunninghill. Although it was initially believed that she had a heart arrest, it has since been discovered that she has fallen into a coma.

Fans, lovers, and family members prayed for her every day for two weeks. On May 9, she passed away. At first, people thought that she had died from cardiac arrest-related heart failure. But after the post-mortem report was made public, it was revealed that she had overdosed on cocaine the night before she passed out.

Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Winnie Mandela paid her a visit when she was in the hospital, and her health was extensively covered in South African newspapers. At age 39, she passed away in a hospital. She went away with her loved ones by her side, including her longtime lovers and coworkers.

Her funeral took place in her birthplace of Langa on May 23. Her 19-year-old son Bongani Fassie took her place.


Brenda received three Kora Awards in 1996, including one each for Most Promising Female Artist of Africa and Best Female Artist of Africa. Additionally, Brend Fassie received five South African Music Awards in 1999, including Best Female Artist and Song of the Year. In 2001, she also received the Jury Special Award.

She was awarded the Best Song of the Decade and the Best Selling Release of the Decade in 2004. In 2005, she also received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The song “I’m so sorry” was performed by her son Bongani, also known as “Bongz.” On the soundtrack to the 2005 Academy Award–winning film Tsotsi, he dedicated the song to his mother.

In March 2006, a life-size bronze sculpture honoring Brenda Fessie was placed in front of Bassline by Johannesburg artist Angus Taylor.


Solo Albums

  • 1987: Brenda
  • 1987: Ag Shame Lovey
  • 1988: Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu
  • 1989: Too Late for Mama
  • 1990: Black President
  • 1991: I Am Not a Bad Girl
  • 1992: Yo Baby
  • 1993: Mama
  • 1994: Abantu Bayakhuluma
  • 1995: Umuntu Uyashintsha
  • 1996: Now Is the Time
  • 1997: Paparazzi
  • 1998: Memeza
  • 1999: Nomakanjani
  • 2000: Thola Amadlozi
  • 2001: Myekeleni
  • 2002: Mina Nawe: Ngohlala Ngi Nje
  • 2003: Mali
  • 2004: Gimme Some Volume
  • 2004: Greatest Hits: The Queen Of African Pop

With Big Dudes

  • 1983: Weekend Special
  • 1984: Cool Spot (EP)
  • 1984: Let’s Stick Together
  • 1985: Higher and Higher
  • 1985: Touch Somebody (EP)
  • 1986: No No Señor

Brenda Fassie Net Worth

Brenda is one of the richest pop singers during her lifetime. She has a net worth estimated to be $1.5 million.

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