Growing up as a young girl in Soweto, we didn’t have a lot female idols to look up to. Music was always a kind of escape for many of us. House music, more specifically, was not just a form of escape but also where we found our hope and dreams. Along with who we now refer to as the “gods of house music” Lebo Mathosa was just that, a Queen.
Born in Daveyton (Johannesburg East)) Lebo moved to Pietersburg, now known as Polokwane, and then moved back to Johannesburg where she started singing at the tender age of seven in a school choir, this was were she began to find her voice.
It was at the age of 14, that she mesmerised Brenda Fassie, and a well-known music producer Don Laka, this led her to become Brenda Fassie’s confidant, who took her under her wing and proclaimed her the next Ma Brrr.
Mathosa’s success came after she had gotten the opportunity to be part of the then successful kwaito group – Boom Shaka with Thembi Seete, Junior Sokhela and Theo Nhlengethwa. Their first album was released in 1996, which was followed by three others.
It was through her provocative dance routines and dress sense that she became somewhat controversial.
Boom Shaka decided to part ways in 1998 after they released their final album. Lebo went on to pursue a solo career and released her first album titled “Dream” in 2000, which won three national awards the following year.
Though she had decided to be valiant in her music career by becoming her own manager and conveying her publishing rights, her album didn’t perform too well commercially.
It was through her unswerving performances that she got acting jobs in a number of South African soapies, such as Muvhango, Backstage, Generations and starred in a movie.
There was a lot of controversy when she released her second album, following the stories about her life, her revealing clothing choices, and excessive alcohol consumption. Her album title made sense, her devotees saw the "Drama Queen" in the way she carried herself.
Brenda Fassie’s death brought much pain not only to her family, friends and fans, but also affected the drama queen in that she had vowed to not live her life like her idol had been said to have lived. Her final album, Lioness followed in 2005, which included hits such as “Brand New Day” and “Take Me There”. One can hear the growth in her music from working with likes of Kwaito legends Trompies, B.O.P and Christos.
October 23, 2016 marked the 10th year anniversary of Lebo's death. Whether its Kwaito, R&B, Afro-pop or House, it is no doubt that this songstress has done wonders for the music industry and has left things better than she had found them.
Many generations will get to read and hear about how blessed the 90's kids were for having such extraordinary artistes. Additionally, Debates will forever occur about what is relevant and whether or not Kwaito is dead, however authentic work will always be remembered and new age Kwaito is an example of this. May we never forget the fallen legends.
Shola Adenekan. 2006. www.theguardian.com available on https://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/oct/28/guardianobituaries.obituaries
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014. www.globalbritannica.com available on https://global.britannica.com/biography/Lebo-Mathosa
Illustration: Ndumiso Nyoni
Writing: Kgomotso Taukobong