Bongani remembers his iconic mother, Brenda ‘MaBrrr’ Fassie

Through it all, Brenda Fassie was blessed to have her son Bongani by her side who was just 19 years old when she passed on. Photo: Archive
Through it all, Brenda Fassie was blessed to have her son Bongani by her side who was just 19 years old when she passed on. Photo: Archive


This year marks 18 years since the passing of music icon Brenda “MaBrrr” Fassie. On May 9 2004, the world was shocked to learn that the queen of South African pop had suffered an asthma attack, which caused brain damage and a heart attack that led to her death.

Through it all, Fassie was blessed to have her son Bongani by her side who was just 19 years old when she passed on. This was hard for Bongani as much of their lives had been deeply interrogated and criticised by the media.

The anniversary of Fassie’s death is so close to Mother’s Day, and thinking about his mother always stirs up a range of emotions for Bongani. He recalls a wonderful childhood, filled with the freedom that gave him the space to navigate the world with tenacity and boldness. Lovingly referring to Fassie as Mama Bear, he said: “I remember spending quality time with my Mama Bear. Having her at home with me was the greatest thing ever. Plus, she was hilarious. Every minute that passed felt like an eternity with her. We always laughed and there was never a dull moment.

She was always in a good mood and ready to cheer me up, so seeing her go on tours was always difficult to accept because then she couldn’t be around. That part still gets me.

Being the son of an icon meant that Bongani had some big shoes to fill. However, he took the role on with pride, saying that her legacy continued to forge new ways for him to evolve creatively.

“I can’t believe it’s been so long, and I still get inspired by who my mom was. She committed herself to doing the most and she always got the best out of me from that.

“Watching her perform was electrifying. I wanted to leave a mark like that with my music as well. That’s another thing I inherited from her, I suppose. My mother’s advice and resilience have made me the kind of artist that can roll with the punches, and that’s what life is.

I was so privileged to be raised by such a strong woman.
Bongani Fassie

Bongani is definitely in his own league when it comes to music. Without any music training, he has been able to hone his musical gift and has even collaborated with some of amapiano’s most influential acts last year, such as Focalistic, Mr JazziQ and Lady Du, for a project that breathed new life into some of his mother’s most iconic songs.

Though his life has been shrouded with controversy, we see the legacy of a giant living on through Bongani. He has also somehow been able to remain positive, remembering the lessons his mother left him. “Adulthood is a journey and parenthood is a skill. I think it’s safe to say that when you look at me, you see the teachings of and from a wise woman, a woman who did it all and has stood the test of time.

READ: Suicide attempts, drugs and his mother's legacy – Bongani Fassie reveals all in new reality show

“She was born during apartheid, then added to that, my mom was a fierce free spirit, which, of course, stirred the pot for a lot of conservative people. She never let it shake her, and I’m sure she is patting herself on the back for what she has left behind for the generations she continues to inspire.”

Fassie was a creative phenomenon – from the amapiano heads to the alternative kids, old and young, could ever escape catching the Fassie bug.

“She’s remembered by politicians, kings and queens. Her life was important and her presence has been felt longer than I’ve been alive. Like it or not, she is a legend,” he said.

While May 9 may be a harder day than usual for Bongani, he said he was grateful that he got to watch his mother’s legacy manifest among the youth.

He shared his mother’s most profound advice: “Life can be hard, but my mother told me to always pray, no matter what is happening, always pray and always be humble.

READ: Mabrrr’s son revitalises her classics with amapiano

“You never know what life could throw at you, so you have to live today like it is your last. What goes up must come down, and what goes around will always come around.”


Janice Phiri  

Culture Writer

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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