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Farewell Thandi Klassen

Written by Bathandwa Mbola

Sport, arts and culture

The music industry has lost yet another gem whose music continues to inspire many South Africans.

The late Thandi Klassen will be remembered for her soothing voice and her work as a social and political activist.The South African music industry suffered yet another blow after the recent passing of legendary jazz musician Thandi Klassen. 

The internationally acclaimed and respected jazz icon from Sophiatown succumbed to pancreatic cancer at East Rand Hospital at the age of 86.

“We have lost one of the leading pioneers of South African jazz music and promoters of the country's cosmopolitan culture.

Klassen began her career singing in local churches and formed her own female quartet called The Quad Sisters. In the 1960s she starred in the internationally acclaimed musical, King Kong, by composer Todd Matshikiza.

The icon also spent time abroad where she performed with many international stars, among them Roberta Flack and Patti Labelle, and steadily gained a reputation as a jazz singer.

Paying tribute to Klassen President Jacob Zuma said Klaasen contributed to the country not only as a musician but also a social and political activist, who was always outspoken about social-economic issues in the country.

“We have lost one of the leading pioneers of South African jazz music and promoters of the country's cosmopolitan culture. She was a role model to many of our young and upcoming musicians and her legacy will live on for generations to come," said President Zuma

Klaasen earned several awards and honours including the National Order of the Baobab from the President, which was bestowed on her for her excellent achievement in and contribution to music.

"We convey our deepest condolences to her family, relatives and all in the arts and culture industry. May her soul rest in peace,” President Zuma said.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, also paid tribute to Klassen whom he said kept alive Sophiatown’s sounds and melodies and its rich cultural tradition through her music.

“We shall remember her for her indomitable spirit, her enduring will to succeed against all odds, her beautiful and haunting voice that inspired generations of South Africans. This silky smooth voice also serenaded audiences the world over,” the Minister said.