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Pan Macmillan

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Bongani Madondo Launches I’m Not Your Weekend Special at the University of Johannesburg


I’m Not Your Weekend SpecialA library might seem an odd place to discuss a personality as loud as Brenda Fassie’s, but this venue choice turned out to be the right one for Bongani Madondo’s I’m Not Your Weekend Special: Portraits on the lifestyle and politics of Brenda Fassie.

Madondo’s panel discussion with journalist Janet Smith of The Star and Mabusha Masekela – nephew of Bra Hugh and a professional in the entertainment industry himself – was held on Thursday 15 May at the University of Johannesburg library. Students filled rows of chairs in the middle of the room, while others sitting at nearby computers turned around to listen. While waiting for proceedings to start, a small group of students were softly singing along to some of Fassie’s music videos, which were being shown on a screen.

The conversation centred around the three panelists’ memories of Fassie. The first time he met her, Masekela said, was at a petrol station in Yeoville. Smith admitted that “every journalist who interviewed her would agree she was quite frightening. You didn’t know what to expect.”

Madondo recounted his experience of first seeing Fassie perform in his hometown of Hammanskraal in 1983, when he was 13: “Brenda didn’t come on stage, she floated. They had a smoke machine and Brenda came out of the smoke. It was magic.”

Fassie was vastly influential in many ways, the panelists agreed. “I see young people with punk clothes, and I think ‘yes you’re on point, but Brenda rocked those 35 years ago’,” said Madondo. “She wasn’t the Madonna of Africa, Madonna was the Brenda Fassie of the US.”

He confessed that his book was not deliberately timed to coincide with the 10 year anniversary of Fassie’s death; he was just late in delivering the manuscript.

According to Masekela, there is a dearth of informative books on South African musicians, and Madondo’s is a valuable addition to the genre.

Having the final word on the iconic singer’s charisma, Masekela said: “I think Brenda was almost a shaman, you know. She reached into the ether and pulled something out of it.”

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Louise Ferreira tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks
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