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Rebecca Malope; Breaking Boundaries through Music

Who knows enough to tell about life? If not one who has learnt to be content with almost nothing and yet is grateful, and is not conceited in plenty; one who knows what it feels like to be weak almost unto death and how it feels to enjoy sound health to the fullest. One who has learnt enough to teach without any formal education and one who sees all the struggles of man to attain wealth as sheer vanity; a continuous chase after the wind.

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Life began for Rebecca Malope in the most unpleasant manner and continued with a line-up of devastating and traumatizing occurrences. First she was born into extreme poverty in 1968 in Lekazi near Nelspruiy, Mpumalanga. A few years later she became severely ill and was confined to a wheel chair for a time and at age nine, the state of things at home drove her in search of a source of livelihood which she found or so she thought as a labourer in a tobacco farm. This is definitely not that type of childhood anyone wants to remember, you know that type of nostalgia you feel when you see children in the amusement park, taking turns on the bouncy castle or singing on the swings or even riding their multi coloured bicycles. No not at all, hers was nothing close, but was sure loaded with grief and lack. Years later, Rebecca made plans with her sister Cynthia and they escaped from their hometown to Johannesburg in the township of Evaton, hopeful that the pasture in the big city will be somewhat greener. Did it turn out to be their promised land?  Only time would tell.

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In the same year a rare opportunity presented itself in the form of a music talent search, ‘Shell Road to Fame’. With confidence and hope she entered the competition but this time again, luck was far from her; she was unsuccessful. Undeterred, she pressed on refusing to be overwhelmed with sorrow and regret. Well in no time, this act of bravery paid off. The things that remained as a limitation to many became the instruments with which she broke boundaries. The following year, Rebecca re-entered the competition and won in the best vocalist category with ‘shine on’. It was this award that launched her career and opened the door to better opportunities. With the services of Sizwe Zako, a Music Producer and Peter Tladi her manager she released her pop debut album which did not sell; she took her cue and switched to gospel music which received much media coverage.

By 1990, this woman of great determination won the OKTV Award of Best South African Female Artist, and her career soared. In 1993, it was estimated that more than one million listeners voted for her as Best Local Established Artist in the Coca Cola Full Blast Competition Award Music Show. She eventually won in 1993 and also in 1994. It was also on record that year that this music star had sold more than two million copies of her recordings. How things change right?

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Again in 1995 her CD ‘Shweie Baba’ sold more than 1 million copies in the three weeks after its release, becoming the fastest selling CD in South African Music history. This time of great accomplishments and new found joy was soon challenged by the heart breaking events that followed; in 1996 Rebecca lost her father, brother and sister in the most tragic circumstances. Now like you, I wonder; what is it with this lady? And then I remember the most frequently asked question, why do bad things happen to good people? Despite the hurdles and challenges, this lady remains ever hopeful and determined; not relenting in her love for music which she believes to be the one thing that can never be taken from her.

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Between 1995 and 2004 Rebecca and her backing group ‘Pure Magic’ toured in Europe, Middle East, America and Africa.  She has collaborated with many musicians and has performed at numerous festivals in her country and beyond and has gained the title “Queen of Gospel”. While in Israel in 1995, she shot a 52 minute Easter special for national broadcast on Good Friday. She also contracted to sing the National Anthem at the Double World Boxing Title fight, televised in 30 countries worldwide.

In 2001, Malope also performed live in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in 2003, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Natal for her contribution to music; this was clearly not a little achievement for someone that never had the opportunity to be within the four walls of a school. This same year, she won the KORA Award for Best Gospel Singer.

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Rebecca has also written her autobiography and filmed her life story. This very successful musician now has her own TV show and also owns a recording company that produces her music, (the same recording company that rejected her first gospel album when she started out in the music industry). Years down the line, the queen teamed up with Sizwe Zako, the man who spotted her years ago when she participated in the Shell Road to Fame and wrote her own song that earned her the first place in the competition.

The duo have released great and soul lifting gospel songs and anthems that continue to inspire many. Zako was also delighted to work with the queen again, to him; it was an opportunity to give hope to the hopeless and strengthen the weak: “We’ve always been about giving people hope. We want to impress on believers that whatever the case they face, if they keep their faith in God things will change. Our Creator is there taking care of us, only if you persevere and work hard.” He also had this to say about Rebecca: “I’ve done some songs with other singers and the songs just disappear. But the strength and energy that Rebecca has put in the album is remarkable. It lifts your spirits, just the sheer strength of her voice and the choir that includes Pu2ma, newcomer Edna Moletsane from Qwaqwa, and Nokwazi Dlamini.”

 This pretty diva currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa  where she has her own studio.

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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