LEGENDARY jazz musician Thandi Klaasen (86) lost her battle with cancer in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Her daughter Lorraine last week revealed on her Facebook page that her mother was battling pancreatic cancer.
Klaasen is reported to have also suffered a stroke in December.
A statement issued by the Department of Arts and Culture, Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Klaasen will be remembered for her indomitable spirit.
“We are saddened by the passing of our extraordinary jazz musician, Mama Thandi Klaasen.
“A great and mighty musical legend. Our condolences go to her daughter, Lorraine, and the rest of the family,” said Mthethwa.
Chairperson of the Living Legends Legacy Programme, an initiative of the Department of Arts and Culture, Welcome Msomi echoed Mthethwa’s sentiments.
“On behalf of the Living Legends Legacy Project, it is sad for the legends, people of South Africa and the world to say goodbye to our legend, Thandi Klaasen. She would want us to celebrate her journey in song and dance. RIP our legend.”
According to sahistory.org Klaasen earned respect as a singer and dancer in various churches around Sophiatown. Her musical career started in the mid-1950s when she used to perform for ten shillings.
She then started performing with groups such as the Gaieties and the Harlem Swingsters, but her career took off when she performed with Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuku and Sophie Mgcina.
Thandi’s songs range from brass to Mbaqanga. She has shared the stage with Roberta Flack and Patti Labelle, among others.
In 1976 she received the Count Pushkin award for best female vocalist.
The Congress of the People described Klaasen’s death as a devastating blow to the country and the music industry.
“Klaasen was not just an ordinary artist, she was a giant among the music giants in this country. Young and old will forever miss her golden voice and her sense of humour. We will miss her Tsotsi taal trademark of Sophiatown.”