“Bhuti (brother) Ngiceli’ lift ( can I get a lift)In your Zola Budd, Zola Budd, Zola budd!
I wanna be in your Zola Budd, Zola Budd, I want to be in your Zola Budd, Zola Budd, Zola Budd!!
Two very simple lines and a melody that still makes me want to stand up run and dance on the spot like she did in the video , with her index finger flaying in the air. The Apartheid Government could not ban her (music/song) like they did so many more other black revolutionary artists at the time. Brenda’s Music was classified as “Bubble Gum” music. You know what you do with bubble gum, you first chew it , play with it, make bubbles, then spit it out when the sweetness is gone. But I can still taste the sugar in Brenda Fassie’s music today. The song Zola Budd, which apart from having a pop theme in the beginning ends with a soulful choir like hymn with her almost crying..slowly repeating Zola Budd.. Zoooola Budd, Zola Budd!!. It echoed the pain and aspirations of both black and white South Africans at the height of the country’s state of emergency, her song spread and became popular like wildfire. No only putting a shine on Brenda the artist our beloved star, but on the mini-bus taxis (which the majority of black south african workers depend on to get to work everyday) and even Zola Budd herself ( she has a song and taxi named after her)
You can imagine then how Popular Brenda Fassie must have been to little black girls like me who growing up in the literal dusty streets of Soweto (because that’s where I’m from) emulated her. We all wanted to be Brenda when we grew up, even boys; we imitated her from head to toe voice to actions. She popularized braids (we called them singles) with colourful beads ( like those worn by traditional healers sometimes) because that’s how she wore her hair. She was a trend-setter. She had bad teeth, but nobody cared, she was more than her tiny frame, bigger greater and larger. I used to love doing impersonations of Brenda Fassie as a child, any chance I’d get, especially the “No senor”, track about a woman being held hostage by her spanish lover. I was dark and awkwardly beautiful like Brenda, so even as a child in the process of becoming aware of myself and what made me different from other humans I could see myself in her, I identified with her. She embodied mine and South Africa’s aspirations. She inspired me, made me believe in myself. That I am black , and that is beautiful. I think my mother took me to TV auditions once, because I believed I could be a star, like Brenda Fassie. Maybe she did too.
So later on in her career Brenda Fassie released another hit song “Indaba ya’m i straight – ayifun’irula” [ My story is straight it doesn’t need a ruler]. It was a response to media accusations, if I am correct, about her sexuality or sexual orientation and activities, she was often rumored to keep multiple partners – male and female. I think she was mostly seeing women at the time of her untimely death.
I think about that song and wonder what Mabrrr (as she was affectionately known) would have to say to the state of the nation today, when women are being raped and assaulted on a daily basis, others only because they are gay – to “correct” them. Or what she would have to say to the fact that our very own Runner and 800 meter’s record breaker, Caster Semenya, was almost stripped of her title and dreams of being an international athlete because she was accused of being a man, running as a woman.
So this got me thinking about writing and how we document and celebrate our history, our heritage and those people who had an impact in our lives such as Brenda Fassie, as we mark the UNESCO World Heritage and Archive week . I have always wanted to be a performer, an artist , an entertainer. But since art didn’t pay, my mother who was and still is my greatest supporter (and I)thought journalism would be best. So now I would like to be myself, today, and use what I have now, today, my journalism education and vast experience ( Thank you mom) to live out those childhood dreams wherever possible, so that when I do have children one day, I can allow them to explore and accept who they are sooner, so they are more balanced and happier adults. One of my colleagues who is celebrating 15 years as a journalist at the public broadcaster today came to my desk this morning and said to me ” I wish I had the insight, 15 years ago, of using what I have been given to the best of my ability. I wish I had known then what I know now, that life is what you make of it now, here where you are, not somewhere in the future, I’m glad I’m doing it now but I swear, I could have kicked myself” – She is in her 50’s.
” Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent” C G. Jung.
What are you still waiting for.