Child Star

Brenda Fassie rose quickly from childhood to stardom. Starting out as a determined young dreamer in Langa, Cape Town, she was discovered by independent producer Koloi Lebona, who brought her to White City, Soweto.

"[Born in November 1964], Brenda Fassie was born into a family of nine children and she was the youngest. She first attend[ed] Thembani Lower Primary and then Moshesh Primary School in Langa, Cape Town. At the age of four, Brenda step[ed] on stage for the first time with a group called the Tiny Tots. Brenda excelled at singing... Her favourite [song was] Elaqaba. She like[d] it because of all the clicks she ha[d] to sing.

"The song speaks about when Christianity came to the southern tip of Africa and some black people decided to retain their traditions, while others converted, leading to families being split. In the song, Elaqaba, is the name given to those blacks who have kept their traditions and have refused to be schooled in the ways of 'civilization' and Christianity.

"[Later Brenda Fassie] start[ed] singing with a group called Cosmos. It's unheard of for a little black girl to perform in Coloured townships.

"Nonkosi Nchukana, Brenda's teacher at Moshesh Promary School described the young Brenda as 'a jolly good fellow, outstanding in music and choir'."

- "Hamba Kahle, Brenda", Saturday Star, May 8, 2004

"Kholeka Mgijima, a former neighbour of Brenda Fassie and her senior at school recalled: 'When [I] was a child I admired the Tiny Tots singing and dancing group that Fassie's mother had founded.'

"'She was so conspicuous, she always would be the centre of attraction... Fassie used to lead the singing in school assemblies from the time she was at primary school. She was known all over the township [Langa] in terms of her singing and social behaviour. She always liked attention,' recalls Monwabisi Fesi, Brenda's former schoolmate at Langa High, remembering Brenda Fassie."

- "Despite her fame Fassie never forgot her roots", This Day, May 11, 2004

"As a child, Brenda predicted her future. Zola Dlova, a neighbour of the Fassies for more than 30 years in Langa, recalled: 'As a child, Fassie had predicted she would one day be wealthy. She said: "One day I am going to be famous; I am going to be rich. The whole world will know me."'"

- "Recalling the good and the crazy", Sunday Times, May 16, 2004

"Koloi Lebona, an independent producer, in an interview with This Day, recounted how he met Brenda Fassie. 'In 1978 a musician friend of mine, Al Etto, called me and said: "There's a 15-year-old singer in Cape Town called Brenda Fassie who has a talent that's worth your while checking out..." I went to Cape Town and met Brenda and her family at their home in Makana Square... I was obviously bowled over by Brenda's singing... I spoke to her mother and said: "I would like to take your daughter under my wing. I will treat her like my own daughter."' Brenda's mother agreed and, in early 1979, Brenda joined Lebona and his wife Ethel in their three-roomed home in White City, Soweto."

- "That voice sent goose pimples down my spine", This Day, May 11, 2004


back to the Brenda Fassie memorial page

"I like to create controversy. I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible."
Brenda Fassie
Brenda Fassie, 1984
Picture: Joe Sefale © Sunday Times


Newspaper sources: An exercise in image-making

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about different images that the media communicate. They will see that one person can be represented in many different ways, or that one person has different sides. Brenda Fassie was a very complex person.

Lesson page
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Archive Photo Gallery
MaBrrr channels Madonna and other great divas.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Watch the Brenda sculpture develop from clay mould to glowing likeness of the queen of African pop.
Orbituary audio archive
Listen to SAfm/Metro FM’s obituary of Brenda, broadcast on May 10, 2004 (5’42").
Go on a 360° virtual tour of the Brenda Fassie memorial, located at Bassline, in the Newtown precinct of Johannesburg.
Madiba remembers Princess Brenda
Madiba describes his surprise when he heard Princess Brenda coming down the stairs in his house
Zola Budd Track
The Sunday Times Heritage Project’s first memorial is to Brenda Fassie, a woman variously described as the Queen of African pop and the Madonna of the Townships
Brenda Fassie and Zola Budd
MaBrrr struts her stuff and takes on taxi drivers with her big hit, “Zola Budd”