Jazz legend will be missed by many

Babsy Mlangeni (left) and Blondie Makhene represented MPASA, where Klaasen was a member.

Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality held a memorial service on Wednesday, January 25, for the late jazz legend Thandi Klaasen, who died at the age of 86 after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

A long-standing resident of Katlehong and later Eden Park, Klaasen died in the early hours of Sunday morning, January 15, at Johannesburg’s Concordia Hospital.

During the memorial service, various jazz legends, politicians and family members explained their good relationship with Klaasen as something that won’t be easy to replace.

According to one of the living legends, Don Mattera, South Africa is enjoying freedom today because of people like Klaasen.

“I remember during the Sophiatown riots, she would never want people to run away. She would say, instead of running away, just look back and see who you would run away with.

“She never wanted to be protected, as she was a queen there,” said Mattera.

Mattera said the people of this country should worship the ground Klaasen walked on, because of the great things she did.

Jazz icon Letha Mbuli said she was only 13 when she met Klaasen for the first time.

“I was going for auditions. Klaasen was there with other musicians, males and females. What stood out was the respect they had for one another. There was unity among them. Klaasen was the most talented one,” said Mbuli.

Musician Caiphus Semenya said he was only 19 when he shared the stage with Klaasen.

“I knew her as South Africa’s best jazz musician. It felt so good to share the stage with her, especially for a young guy like me. I wanted to be like her, even though I am a guy,” said Semenya.

Semenya said he performed with Klaasen at a number of big shows, including a concert in Cape Town.

Klaasen was a member of The Music Performance Association of South Africa (MPASA), which was represented on the day by Blondie Makhene and Babsy Mlangeni.

Mlangeni delivered a speech on behalf of MPASA.

“Klaasen fought for us to get a lot of money from the SABC. The SABC owed us the money as members of the association. She won that fight. As I am talking to you, we are going to get a lot of money very soon, thanks to Klaasen’s heroic act. Klaasen herself got her money. She enjoyed it before she passed away,” said Mlangeni.

Mlangeni said Klaasen was never in the news for the wrong reasons.

Thandi’s daughter Lorraine, who resides in Canada, said her mother taught them isintu (culture).

“Because of the good teachings of my mother, I never looked down upon my culture. I still speak my language as I did before I left for Canada. My children and my grandsons were also born in Canada, but they speak our language (Zulu) very well,” said Lorraine. “My mother was such a good example. When I grew up I wanted to be like her. She taught me quite a lot of things.”

Lorraine commented on Klaasen’s love for music.

“My mom loved music a lot, not necessarily because of her voice and talent, but because of the people’s reaction when she sang.

“When we were together we used to talk about love and how we loved each other. I come from a family of love,” added Lorraine.

She explained what kind of mother Klaasen was.

“She was the kind of mother who loved her children a lot. She also loved herself, and was very neat. She would never tolerate people leaving things around the house. She would call you and tell you to take it to the right place.”

According to Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi, the country has lost a rare talent in Klaasen.

“Klaasen was one of those musicians who used their music talent to fight against apartheid. She was not the kind of person you would tell how to do things. You could take her anywhere in the country and tell her to do something and she would do it her way. She never felt as though other people were bigger than her. If you said what she thought was not right, she would correct you at that time,” said Muthambi.

Klaasen was buried on Friday, January 27 at Thomas Nkobi Cemetery, the cemetery where Chris Hani is buried.

Aaron Damane

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