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Al Etto’s family are still in shock after the musician, song writer and producer died in Cape Town last week.
The 60-year-old was credited with discovering Brenda Fassie, who he met when she was just a skinny girl named Themba living and singing in the Langa township almost 30 years ago.
Family spokesman Quinton Manuel, a radio DJ and long-time friend of the artist, said the saxophonist’s death was sudden and unexpected Etto had been suffering from chronic back pain and had been restricted to a hospital bed for the last two months.
But Manuel said he still had a healthy appetite and a “will to live”. His family were even planning to bring him home before his heart suddenly stopped.
“It just came out of nowhere,” said Manuel. “But I think the pain just got too much for his heart.”
Etto’s family have described him as a “colourful man”.
Born as Aldridge Aden Etto in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, the saxophonist was one of 25 children.
His big break came in the 1970s when he joined the music group The Invaders and the Eastern Cape burst out of the province on to the music scene.
After that, the musician spent most of his time travelling between Cape Town and Joburg, recording singles for his band.
It was in this time, during 1978, that he discovered Fassie in Langa.
“He begged Brenda’s mom to allow Brenda to join them on the Lionel Petersen tour,” said Manuel. “He put her in touch with a producer and the rest is history.”
Fassie, now known as the Queen of African Pop, became a prolific South African artist.
Known for her bold stage antics and her hit songs Weekend Special and Too late for Mama – the outspoken singer died in 2004 at the age of 39. She recorded 12 albums in her 20-year career.
Al Etto later founded his own record label “Ghetto Land Records”, which counted his wife Ginger La Etto as one of its first artists.
Manuel said the musician was still performing at the beginning of this year, singing to a crowd of over 1 000 fans at a concert in Mitchells Plain. It would be one of his last performances.
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