Baby Bongani Fassie grows up

2013-06-09 14:01

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The son of Brenda Fassie, Bongani, has followed in his mother’s footsteps. On the 30th anniversary of his mother’s hit, Weekend Special, the new father speaks to Lesley Mofokeng about parenthood, the industry and being under constant media scrutiny.

We’re 30 minutes into our chat and Bongani Fassie is getting restless.

He wants to go home and feed his eight-month-old baby girl.

“She’s teething and her mummy needs me,” he says.

He may be constant tabloid fodder, but Fassie insists he only leaves home for two reasons – to provide for his family and to pursue his music dreams.

“I want to be there and witness all of my daughter’s firsts. She’s on that mama-and-papa tip and is walking. I’ve replaced whatever six-packs (of beer) I had with milk and baby bottles,” says the proud father.

Fassie (29) has immortalised this special time in a song, much like his mother did back in 1984 with the hit song Baby Bongani, which instantly turned the newborn into a star and set him up for a life in the spotlight.

Today, Fassie has Daddy Loves You, in which he sings “.?.?.?this one is dedicated to my little girl?.?.?.?Brenda you remind me of my mother?.?.?.?hey young Brenda”, he raps about daughter Brenda Nombuso Fassie.

I ask how he feels whenever he hears Baby Bongani. “I remember my mother. She used to say, ‘you will miss me when I’m not around’. And now I miss her. I would rather play another song.”

He admits that Daddy Loves You is for his daughter’s benefit. He, too, wants the world to know the name and remember it.

“As much as I’m honouring my mother and paying homage to all she has built, I’m marketing my daughter. I won’t lie.”

Fassie’s other love – music – is also growing with the recent release of his new album Rise.

He describes the new album as “unorthodox and a “melting pot”.

He says: “They will listen to it in Nigeria and in Durban, and hip-hop fans will too.”

The album was produced by Fassie himself and DJ Sneja; and features Goldie, the late Big Brother Africa contestant from Nigeria, on the title track, which has a throbbing David Guetta feel mixed with the rhythms of Durban kwaito.

Rappers ‘Pro, Pdot O, and J-Lawless also spit some rhymes on the release. Afro-pop crooner Malik features on King of Kings.

Fassie says he needed to work to help him cope with the constant grief of losing his mother.

“It’s not pressure. It’s more like a necessity. It’s easy for people to say, ‘people die, get over it’. I tell you it’s not easy to lose a parent. I’m at peace because I believe Brenda is in a better place.”

Rise is his first solo project in 19 years.

He released his debut at 10 and sold more than 75?000 copies.

“I need to find Chicco (Twala) for that cash,” he jokes.

In those years, Fassie partnered, collaborated, featured, produced and composed with many artists, most notably in his band Jozi with childhood friend Leslie Mampe (Da Les), Ishmael Morabe and Crazy Lu.

“It was all boot camp training.” He now looks back over the years and the “frenemies” he has made.

“I’ve learnt that trust is key. Even when you trust, leave space for disappointment. This industry has a dark hole that sucks you deep in. You need to be alert and pray.

“But now it’s water under the bridge. I’m an emotional person and don’t take things easy. I have overcome that obstacle and the trust issues. I’m no longer in the dark hole.”

He admits, however, that he misses his old friend Da Les.

“I don’t see him and I miss him. We need a convention about friendship. This divide and conquer has separated us. I only see Crazy Lu. He’s married now and has a child in Cape Town.”

Addressing the relentless scrutiny he is under, Fassie says he is scared of the newspapers but respects them.

“I lost my mum and went into music. Sometimes it gets too much for me. Reporters have the power to mould and create personalities. But I give positive and in return I get negative.”

He rubbishes recent reports in this paper about forgetting his mother’s ashes in Cape Town.

“Some of these reports destroy me from within. Nevermind what people out there think, now I can’t look my aunt in the eye.”

Fassie says he sometimes regrets his chosen career and points out that he works well with children and the elderly.

“I get a kick out of helping them because I have realised that the older you get the younger you become. I like to help them out. I’m that type of a person.

“I also do sport: soccer, cricket, ice hockey and skateboarding. I also enjoy driving, although not at high speeds as I used to. When you become a parent you tone down a bit.

“Being a father is beautiful, but I ask myself whether I’m ready. Only time will tell if I’m really ready. For now, my child is healthy and lives in a safe environment.”

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