Deborah Fraser honoured with a Doctor of Philosophy in Sacred Music

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Gospel singer Deborah Fraser is happy to be honoured with a Doctor of Philosophy in Sacred Music.
Gospel singer Deborah Fraser is happy to be honoured with a Doctor of Philosophy in Sacred Music.

She was recently honoured with a Doctor of Philosophy in Sacred Music by the Christian Leadership Academy. Legendary gospel singer Deborah Fraser (55) was not expecting the honour but is happy to be amongst African Gospel singers who have contributed to changing lives.

“I feel that my contribution to the music has not been in vain. I am humbled, it is a true honour,” she tells Drum.

She has been making music for as long as she can remember.

“I grew up singing and came to Johannesburg in 1984 as a backup vocalist for local and international artists such as Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Black Mambazo, Lucky Dube, and Brenda Fassie to name a few,” she says. She released her first gospel album called Abanye Bayombona in 2000. 

“Universal Music called and asked to sign me and I sold millions on copies.”

The last album she released was Ujehova Akanqotshwa in 2019, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all her live concerts were cancelled. “I feel blessed to still be making music even during a pandemic and to still get honoured,” she says.

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She admits that the music industry has changed from the times of cassettes and CDs and now in the digital world of downloads, but she is grateful to still be relevant.

“Things are not the same. We were used to selling hard copies of records. We are the cassette generation and we had to adapt to CDs, now we are learning to maneuverer the digital age as old school musicians,” she says. 

“But we are willing to learn, I am willing to learn. My music still has a market. I thank God that people still love the African gospel. People still want to worship, pray and keep their spirituality stable,” she says. 

Deborah recalls her days in high school.

“I finished my Grade 12 at Ohlange High School founded by publisher and philosopher John Langalibalele Dube. I was taught by UN official Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka at school. Singer Tu Nokwe studied there and Thoko Didiza all attended my school, so I was destined to be on the list of great artists to change music,” she says.

“But I did not pursue education further, instead I chose music. So being honoured with academics means a great deal for me,” she says.

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A few years ago she was diagnosed with diabetes and has had a few health scares, but right now she is in good health. She sold some of her properties in the city and bought a farm in the South of Johannesburg.

“I love farm life, and being away from the toxic city,” she says.

“Right now, I am happy, I’m in good shape. I am healthy, you can’t even tell that I am diabetic. I left city life with its drama and stress to live and hide on my farm. I take care of my health,” she says.

“There were too many lies being spread about me to the media and in music circles. The changing world of the music business came with a lot of controversies. I am a straight talker and I learned that it was important to protect my peace and my health by living far from the city. I have peace of mind and my health is great.”

Last year she made tabloid headlines after making a joke on social media about her age and tweeted that she was 40 years old instead of 54. She was highly criticised by people who failed to understand the joke.

“I was joking. We were all going through a tough time with the pandemic, and I was really trying to liven up the mood. My age has never been a secret.” Deborah says the pandemic has made many people “understandably angry and uptight”.

“It has been tough on all of us. We need to be kind to each other and laugh at some of our hardships,” she says. But she hopes with her new upcoming project due for release in the Easter of 2022, she will be able to lift people’s spirits and give them hope again.

“I am working with artists who I cannot reveal as yet. I know it will be great and shed some light and give a bit of hope.”

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