Legendary musician and record producer Sello “Chicco” Twala paid a moving tribute to the doyenne of gospel, Dr Deborah Fraser.
The legendary singer died on Sunday, May 15, after a short illness. She was 56.
The family of the gospel star confirmed Fraser’s death in a Facebook statement.
“It is with deep sadness to inform you of the passing of our beloved mother, sister, aunt and friend, and gospel musician, Dr Deborah Fraser, following a short illness. She passed today (Sunday, May 15) after midday, in the presence of her family and friends.”
The family also requested privacy as they try to “process and deal” with the tragic loss of their loved one.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika’s Ayanda Nyathi on Monday, Twala described Fraser’s death as a great loss to the industry.
“Her life was the greatest gift given to the family and the industry as a whole. We’ve lost an icon. We've lost the best musician who has really made us proud,” said Twala.
“Deborah has contributed immensely to our industry. Gospel wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn't for her.”
Twala also reflected on Fraser’s career in the mid 1980s.
“The first time I met with her, she was a backing singer for most of the albums that I was doing with Brenda Fassie and other musicians. I discover in the ’80s that her voice shouldn’t just be left out, to be a backing vocalist, she needed to record her own album.
“And I spoke to Harry Voerman, who was the CEO at Universal Music at that time …I asked him if we can record an album. She (Deborah) sold over 2 million copies. She never disappointed. Her loss is very sad for our country.”
When asked why Fraser's music resonated with so many people, Twala said: “Deborah was very unique and versatile. She wrote most of her songs and what I can tell you from my experience with her, when she gets into the studio, when you give her melodies, she would make changes that you’d be proud of.
“She was not the artist that would just listen to the producer. Her contribution in the studio was amazing.”
In April, a video of Fraser in a wheelchair started circulating on social media, raising concerns for the star’s health.
"I was singing in Limpopo, I decided to go and perform because they had booked us a long time before. I then asked them to not distribute the videos, but they did not honour that request. Some of them said I was pretending to be sick – how can I play with sickness when I’m a grown woman?
“My voice has no problem, but I am asking for prayers for me to not be in this condition for too long,” she told IOL Lifestyle sister publication Isolezwe.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media as fans and industry pals remember the veteran singer.
“Good night Mama @dr_deborahfraser 😭😭😭😭😭,” expressed gospel star Dr Winnie Mashaba.
“Ulale kahle mama siyabonga ngazo zonke ibusiso zakho🙏🏿ulale ngoxolo. (Rest well Mama. We are grateful for all your blessings),” wrote rapper Big Zulu.
“Rest in peace Mom @dr_deborahfraser 😭😭😭🕊,” added singer Nomcebo Zikode.
Fraser began her singing career in 1985 and she started as a backing vocalist for many of South Africa’s prominent artists, including Brenda Fassie, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Lucky Dube and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The funeral and memorial service details are yet to be confirmed.