South Africa: The World Mourns Brenda Fassie

Angus Taylor's life-size bronze sculpture of Brenda Fassie outside Bassline, a music venue in Johannesburg.

The top pop star died on Sunday at the age of 39.

There has been a general cry of despair in the world of arts after the death of one of South Africa's most popular singers, Brenda Fassie. She died in Johannesburg on Sunday at the age of 39. Fassie, known as the girl with the golden voice, was taken to hospital two weeks ago with brain damage following a heart attack. The star, famous for her public bad temper, lesbian love affairs and long battle with drugs, suffered brain damage after a cardiac arrest last month. "The news of her death comes despite reports that she had appeared to be responding to stimuli over the weekend", BBC's Richard Hamilton in South Africa said. Her family members confirmed on Sunday that Fassie had suffered brain damage following what they described as an asthma attack on April 26 that led to cardiac arrest. Her condition has been front-page news in South Africa's newspapers. Her family says that her fans should not mourn her but instead celebrate her memory with her music.

Brenda had been at the forefront of South African music for some 20 years. Despite being written off by critics numerous times, Fassie has a host of fans across Africa, including former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

When she sang at a concert marking the handover of power from former president Mandela to Thabo Mbeki, the cheers for Fassie were reported to be the loudest. In a statement, President Thabo Mbeki said she had been "a Pan-African activist, making souls rise in bliss wherever her voice reached."

The "wild child" of South African music, Fassie was born in a Cape Town township in 1964 and has rarely been out of the media spotlight since she shot to fame in the early 1980s with the hit "Weekend Special." Dubbed by Time Magazine as the "Madonna of the Townships," the "petite" woman with a piercing voice, has an army of loyal fans, many of whom flocked to the Johannesburg hospital where she was being treated.

The South African singer and songwriter belonged to the Madiba clan of the Xhosas. Brenda started out singing with the Big Dudes. She signed to a US label in 1990 called SBK after they had heard Brenda's 'Black President' which had been banned in South Africa.

She has sold more albums than any other black South African singer. Despite the number of songs banned, Brenda still thrived and ears still twitched for the excellent sounds of Brenda Fassie. She had won several awards; Best Selling South African Album, South African Music Awards, Best African Pop Album, Song of the Year, Best Video - Kora All Africa Music Awards (2000), Best Africa Artist - Kora All African Music Awards - South Africa (1999). Africa and the world would miss her.

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