Who is Brenda Fassie?The Queen of African Pop

Last weekend I decided to spend my time and listen to amazing African music and Brenda Fassie’s songs were on my playlist. She is the greatest musician of all time and is even branded The Queen of African pop. Brenda was a South African musician and songwriter who doubled as a dancer and activist.

But who is Brenda Fassie who was fondly known by her fans as MaBrrr?

Early life

She was Born Brenda Nokuzola Fassie on November 3 1964 in Langa Capetown South Africa. Brenda was born into a huge family where she was the youngest of nine siblings.

Her name Brenda was derived from one Brenda Lee. She spent minimal time with her father as he died when she was two years old. She was raised mostly by her mother.

Start of her music career

Brenda’s mom was part of her music career as she was a pianist. When she was still young her mother nurtured her as she started by singing for tourists.

At 16 years old in 1981 she got a visit by Koloi Lebona that visit inspired her top to leave her hometown Capetown to move to Soweto Johannesburg.

At Johannesburg, she joined a vocal group joy where she filled in for another musician. She was not a lead singer at the moment until she joined a group for Township music called Brenda and the Big Dudes.

Her music as a tool for change

Fassue was never scared; her outspoken nature was what garnered her respect and love from her fans.

She used her music to oppose the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

In 1989 she wrote a song titled Black President for Nelson Mandela while he was a political prisoner. That was the time the heat on Mandela was high and it would even land you an arrest.

Frequently visited poor townships and that earned her the title of The Madonna of townships.


Brenda Fassie has a son Bongani Fassie who she had with her partner a fellow Big Dudes Musician. Fassie never wanted her son to be a musician she wanted him to be a lawyer.

She was once married to Mbambo Nhlanhla they officially married in 1989 and divorced in 1991.

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Despite issues with her personal life, Brenda has won many achievements in her life as a musician.

Five South Africa Music Awards.

In 1999 she won Best female artist and song of the year.

Fassie won the best-selling release of the decade and also the best song of the decade in 2004.

In 2005 she won the lifetime achievement award.

Three Kora awards

Fassie’s music career had her winning three KORA awards where she won the Most promising female artist of Africa and best female artist of Africa in 1996. She also won the Jury special award in 2001.

She was the 17th in the Top 100 Great South Africans as voted by South Africans.

Her bronze sculpture

In March 2006 a life-size sculpture of Fassie by artist Angus Taylor was installed outside Bassline a music venue in Johannesburg.

Drugs and drug abuse

Rumors always passed around that Brenda Fassie was abusing drugs but that was fully confirmed when Fassie’s lover Poppie Sihlahla was found dead in her hotel roomed dead from a drug overdose and she passed out. She was taken to the hospital and later to a rehab clinic in an attempt to get clean and focus on her music.

Despite the initial admission to a rehabilitation clinic. Fassie still went back to using drugs and in her life, she went to rehab clinics 30 separate times and still relapsed.

Fassie’s death

Brenda Fassie had lots of health issues that began on 26th April 2004. She collapsed at her home in Buccleuch, Gauteng, and was admitted to a hospital in Sunninghill.

The family told the reporters that Brenda suffered cardiac arrest but later slipped into a coma because of her asthma.

Post-mortem results confirmed that she had taken a cocaine overdose that resulted in her coma. She had stopped breathing thus no oxygen supply to her brain leading to brain damage.

Fassie died aged 39 years old on May 9, 2004. This is after the machines that were keeping her alive were switched off as there was no hope of her getting better. She died in the presence of her family, son, and partner.

Unconfirmed stories about Fassie

A postmortem carried out on her indicated that Fassie was HIV positive. These claims were disputed by her manager.