Brenda Fassie: Woman Who Sang Like Nightingale

Brenda Fassie

By Olufunke Cole

The Vulindlela crooner is one personality that will  dominate Africa musical scene for a long time. In fact, I didn’t get close to her genre and style of music until I came across her live performance of Vulindlela which featured the legendary freedom fighter and advocate for human rights and liberation, Nelson Mandela (a man that will forever remain in the consciousness of Africans’ and the world as a titanic freedom fighter, liberator and upholder of a new era and Africa order). May his soul continue to rest in paradise. That live performance enabled and triggered me to embark on a personal research into the life of this energetic songress whose sonorous voice still reverberates like that of a nightingale.

Her voice was a melancholic impression on her stage performances which gave her away as one the true best of African music.Vulindlela was a song rendered in Swahili language and coined with traditional musical beats and rhythm. And as expected of outstanding works, I fell in love with her. This was a lady whose stage performances bred an uncommon energy and optimal display of agility. Undoubtedly, she rocked the scene for as long as she existed. Coupled with the fact that, the apartheid which which was raging like an inferno in South Africa contributed to her rise in the musical industry because of her unrelenting clamour for the release of Mandela who was serving a jail term.

Mabrrr, as fondly called by her fans, represented a true heroine of Africa classical music and entertainment. Her debuts cannot be forgotten in the most likely of time. Born in South Africa and named Brenda Nokuzola Fassie was a songwriter, dancer and human rights activist whose songs depicted discrimination meted out against the blacks in South Africa was no doubt a driving force to the emancipation of blacks lives and freedom. There were other prominent figures who stood against apartheid and unjustifiable inequalities that existed between the whites and blacks. One of her tributes to Mandela in one of her tracks earned her a major popularity in the 90s which provided a huge platform for her undaunted vocals and inspirational lyrics. A woman of many parts, her audacious lyrics broke the silence within the amorous circle of music as she clinched the title, “Queen of African Pop” or ” the black Madonna”.

Brenda is a true representation of Africa’s cultural values which were well reflected in the choice of her theme languages and determination because of her unflinching support for the liberation of blacks in South Africa. No doubt, she conveyed her message mellifluously with a distinctive allegory peculiar to her region’s predicament. Her energetic performance produced that charm and aura poignant of a sincere artist whose style was larger than life. It was a sad euphonium that the candle of her physical existence fizzled out in her prime. Her shiny light got extinguished in the noon. Such was the soul that demystified pains and sufferings her people went through with revolutionary messages that dominated her lyrics. Brenda Fassie was a force to be reckoned with on the path of genre of Africa music. Indeed, Brenda’s music remains a focal point on South Africa political hemisphere, and indeed throughout the length and breadth of Africa.


-Olufunke Cole, Doctoral Student, Department of History, University of Lagos