Lebo Mathosa

Kwaito star and actress

Lebo Mathosa, singer, songwriter and actress: born Daveyton, South Africa 1977; died Germiston, South Africa 23 October 2006.

Typically sporting a long blonde wig and dancing raunchily, the singer Lebo Mathosa was renowned for her charismatic stage presence and natty dress sense. Aside from being nominated "one of Africa's sexiest women" by the men's magazine FHM, she was also a pioneer in the field of copyright for South African artists, having secured ownership of all the publishing rights and shares for her songs.

Mathosa first emerged in 1994, while still in her teens, with Boom Shaka, which became one of the most high-profile acts performing kwaito, a hugely popular South African style that combines elements of hip hop, house and various local ingredients. Her subsequent solo career saw her broadening her stylistic range and topping the South African pop charts. At the time of her death, she was planning to start her own label.

Unusually on the South African music scene, Mathosa gained control of all her publishing rights not long into her career. In 1997, she engaged the copyright lawyer Graeme Gilfillan to secure first Boom Shaka's rights and later her own as a solo artist. Gilfillan remembers how her singing increasingly dominated the group, and her incredible drive, which meant that Boom Shaka had little wind in their sails without her, and eventually folded. "She was a perfectionist," he says,

obsessed in terms of what she did. She didn't do anything halfway. She prepared her dancers and her set for hours and hours - incredible dedication to her craft.

Although Mathosa guarded her private life, it was an open secret that she once had a long-standing affair with one of her female dancers, which helped make her something of a gay icon. Her current partner was the man driving the car in which she died; he survived the crash.

Born in 1977, Mathosa grew up in the East Rand town of Daveyton, near Johannesburg, where she enjoyed gospel music, singing in a local choir from the age of seven. She was inspired to pursue a show-business career by the likes of the pop diva Brenda Fassie and various kwaito groups. In fact, when Mathosa was only 14, Fassie arranged for her to come and live with her. Thus, the established star became a mentor and role model, announcing that her protégée was "going to be the next Brenda Fassie". Fassie herself died in 2004.

In 1994, Mathola met the rapper Junior Sokhela. Along with two other budding rappers, Thembi Seete and Theo Nhlengethwa, they founded Boom Shaka. By 1996, the group had released its début album, It's About Time, and become renowned for slick stage shows which raised the bar for kwaito acts. They made three more albums with Mathosa, achieving notoriety in 1998 with a controversial version of "Nkosi Sikelela", the South African national anthem. This was featured on the UK's first kwaito compilation, Kwaito: South African hip hop (2000).

By the end of the 1990s it was obvious that a solo career for Mathosa was inevitable. In 2000 she released her début solo album, Dream, and the following year she picked up three Samas (South African Music Awards). Around the same time, she also launched an acting career, appearing in the local soap operas Muvhango, Generations and Backstage and the film Soldiers of the Rock (2003). During 2004 she took part in local performances of The Vagina Monologues.

Her first trip to the UK was in 2001, performing with Boom Shaka at the Celebrate South Africa concert in Trafalgar Square and a club in Tottenham for the Zimbabwe independence day celebrations.

Her next album, Drama Queen, topped the South African pop charts in 2004 after a fallow period that prompted rumours of personal problems, although Mathosa blamed the career hiatus on contractual wrangles with her former record company, Gallo.

She appeared at the 2005 launch of the Africa-wide MTV Base channel, capitalising on a fan-base she had already established in countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya. Her most recent album, Lioness, was released the same year and last month she travelled to the UK again after being nominated for Best African Act at the British Mobo awards, although she lost out to Ghana's Batman Samini.

Jon Lusk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam