South Africa mourns jazz legend Thandi Klaasen

Legendary South African jazz musician Thandi Klaasen is no more. 

The late Thandi Klaasen. Photo: Flickr
The late Thandi Klaasen. Photo: Flickr

She was 86.

Klaasen died in the early hours of Sunday morning, 15 January, after battling with pancreatic cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease last week. Her daughter Lorraine, who is also a singer, revealed the news on Facebook and thanked the support she and the family have received.

President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa are among many top politicians who have paid tribute to the fallen icon.

In a media statement, President Zuma said, "Ms Klaasen contributed to the country not only as a musician but also a social and political activist who was always outspoken about social-economic issues in the country. We have lost one of the leading pioneers of South African jazz music and promoters of the country's cosmopolitan culture. She was a role model to many of our young and upcoming musicians and her legacy will live on for generations to come."

Minister Mthethwa wrote on Twitter, “We are saddened to learn that jazz legend Thandi Klaasen has passed on. Our thoughts are with her daughter Lorraine, her loved ones, & fans.”

A number of top local musicians such as Euphonik and Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse have conveyed their condolences to the ‘And I Love You So’ hit maker’s family.

Thandi grew up in Sophiatown. Her father was a shoemaker and her mother a domestic worker. Her music career began in the mid-1950s and in 1961 she moved to London where she worked in the then internationally-acclaimed musical group King Kong. At the height of her career she performed with big artists such as Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka.

In 1999, she received a Woman of Distinction Award in Canada. Her song ‘Sophiatown’ also saw her being honoured with the order of Ikamanga in Silver in 2006. The Order of Ikhamanga is an honour granted by the President of South Africa for achievements in arts, culture, literature, music, journalis and sports.  Recently, Klaasen had received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 12th MTN South African Music Awards.

Her memorial and funeral details are expected to be announced early this week.



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