Fire That Burnt Through Our Souls And Left A Mark - Brenda Fassie

Her legacy lives on.

By  | Nov 03, 2021, 06:00 AM  | Brenda Fassie  | Top of The

Brenda Fassie- South African Legend
From her work in Memeza, her hand in Miriam Makeba’s album Sangoma, her prowess in Harry Belafonte’s post-apartheid album Paradise in Gazankulu, Brenda Fassie engraved her name in the souls of many.

Described by many as a gem, a star, and the holder of a voice that lit hope, passion and ignited the spirits of millions, Fassie lived a life that was to be envied by any up-and-coming musician anywhere in the world.

Today, we were supposed to be dancing as we celebrated yet another birthday of this generational talent, the African Madonna, that we all would have loved to listen to forever.

When she collapsed on that fateful morning in her home 17 years ago, we all hoped that she would regain consciousness and get back on her feet to continue blessing us with her wonderful talent. Little did we know that we had already been robbed of an enigma by the cruel hand of death.

The media described it as cardiac arrest, but it was later explained to have been a lack of oxygen in her brain that led her straight into a coma.

Also read: Letoya On What Brenda Fassie Said About Her Before She Died

A lot of speculation, as is the norm with all celebrity deaths, was peddled as people sought more information on the cause of her demise.

These speculations, however, don't come anywhere close to the work that she did as an artist, and today, on what could have been her birthday, we look back at the life she lived.

Fassie was a pop star in every sense of the word, specializing in the good, terrible, and absurd. If you can believe that two terms mean two distinct things, she was loud and vocal.
And being out gay in Africa, despite the deadly opposition, was part of the excitement for someone of her caliber. They had to accept her for who she was because she dared them all.
“I am a shocker. I like to create controversy. It’s my trademark,” Fassie said.
It would have been simple to dismiss her as an attention seeker when she identified herself as a lesbian. After all, she had a child with a man when she was 20 and was rumored to be the lover of other men.

Also read: Remembering The Late Brenda Fassie
Fassie, on the other hand, was stubborn and proud of her female relationships. The objective for her was the insurrection itself.
Before South Africa legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, LGBT people had little to no protection from the government. Although legal precedents dating back to 1996 were established, extending equal rights to queer people proved unpopular.

Hate crimes against LGBT individuals were widespread in South Africa in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"In South Africa, a large-scale march in Soweto raised attention to the rampant rape of lesbians in the townships, which offenders often try to excuse as an attempt to "correct" the victims' sexuality," according to a UN report from 2010.
Fassie's world was very much her own, but she was unabashedly herself. She also hoped that she would be able to legally settle with her girlfriend, Gloria Chaka, one day.
"We'll get married," she remarked in an interview. We'll make a decision when we're ready. I believe that as a South African music icon, I should be granted my rights."

The pop sensation was well aware that she was unlike any other homosexual South African. She was a multi-award-winning musician with a charismatic personality and a global following.
Fassie was proud of her self-image, but she was also aware of her place in the larger scheme of things: a queer woman in South Africa, even if she was wealthy and renowned.

Also read: The 2000s Get Introduced To Music Legend, Brenda Fassie
Fassie, on the other hand, was adamant about not being "that gay singer." It would be just too pitiful to be defined exclusively by what you do with other consenting adults behind closed doors.
She had to be better than usual in that scenario. With all due respect to female contemporaries like Vicky Sampson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Margaret Singana, Fassie had to battle not only misogyny but also homophobia.

The assignment was metaphorically double her size, and the hurdle was doubled. Fassie braced the storm to a large extent till she couldn't anymore. And when she wasn't winning prizes or squabbling with journalists, Fassie was fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. She was dubbed "Madonna of the Townships" by Time Magazine because she performed such a brilliant job.
The resemblance was alluring to the Western spectator; aside from the fact that they both knew how to stir up a fuss, Madonna owns hypersexual shows and songs, while Fassie made bold references to her prohibited inclinations.
Fassie, on the other hand, was the first name that came to mind for an African observer. Never before or since has an African artist publicly acknowledged his or her queerness.

Also read: Brenda Fassie Remembered In 10 Tweets
Fassie was a force to be reckoned with, and it's fair to say she swayed a few hearts and minds. We're still a long distance from the rest of the globe, as Fassie would prefer. For example, if Fassie were still alive, the only country in Africa where she might marry is South Africa, yet she is free to be herself in a few others.
It would be great to acknowledge the contributions of the tragic heroine, Fassie, whether you are nodding to continental hit Vuli Ndlela or analyzing the difficulties Africans face in overcoming homophobia; or even if you are not afraid to cause good trouble on behalf of the underprivileged and you stand up against anti-black discrimination.

Read next: Nomzamo Remembers Her Late Sister

Main image credit: Twitter

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