The Dudes remember Nokuzola

A lot happened to Brenda Nokuzola Fassie after she and her erstwhile backing group The Big Dudes parted ways almost 20 years ago.

Says former Big Dude Desmond Malotana: ?Nokuzola was a star and she remained a star until the last day of her life.

"But much happened in her life since we parted ways in 1986. That is as far as I can go about it.

"What I knew for sure was that she would survive ... one day you would hear that she was down and out and the next you would see MaBrrr rising against and picking up where she left off."

Malotana says that while working with the pop star dubbed "Madonna of the Townships", he never experienced any problems.

He recalls: "We started The Dudes together as a backing group for Blondie and Papa.

"Back then, she was a very respectable and nice girl.

"I used to call her by her Xhosa name, Nokuzola. In fact, we managed to control her and she listened when we called her to order."

The Big Dudes former leader is one of its three surviving members. Including Fassie, it comprised six members at the time.

Malotana is the "original" composer of the famous song, Weekend special recorded in 1983. Musically, he describes MaBrrr as being naturally talented.

"Brenda was very quick to pick up a melody," he says.

Malotana composed other songs like Promise, Is Nice To Be With People , I Just Need somebody To Love and Tender Care.

Blackie Sibisi, who also played for the band Step Ahead, says: "I worked with Brenda for 14-years and I knew her well. She was kind and cooperative, although there were times she did crazy things."

Fassie joined Step Ahead after she and The Big Dudes separated.

Says Sibisi: "What made me like her was that I understood her character.

"Something I also like about her was her caring nature, being supportive, making your problem hers and her trying very hard to help you."

Sibisi says The Dudes were always there when Fassie was trying to get her life back by going for rehabilitation.

"After rehab she would call us and tell us it is business as usual. When I saw her in hospital, I thought it was a temporary thing. I never thought that she would never come back again."

Fats Mlangeni, another member, says although he didn't work with the queen of pop for long, he had great times with her.

"The few years I worked with her were great and memorable, but that was until the group disbanded. Besides that we still remained friends. Every time we met she would ask me to come and visit her."

Bassist, David Mabaso says: "As a person who worked with her from the start, backing Blondie and Papa, she respected me. I believe that we were the ones who built Brenda's name."

Mabaso says that in 1987 he parted ways with MaBrrr. He describes Fassie as a funny person who had no grudges against others.

The group had good times with her, but, says Mabaso: ?She used to remind us that she was the boss. But when she ?fired' us and we threatened to leave she cried and begged us to stay."

He says they will always miss Fassie's creativity in the studio, and mostly, "her golden and innocent voice".

"Before she died I went to the hospital to see her but I couldn't get inside. The situation was tense. I say you could feel that something was going to happen," says Mabaso.

• Sowetan, Friday, May 14 2004 p. 6. Author: Patience Babalele

Last updated : 12-Apr-2011

This article was produced by South African History Online on 04-Apr-2011

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.