South Africa mourned the death of one of its biggest pop stars last month. Lebo Mathosa, 29, died in a car crash October 23 in Germiston, South Africa, after her driver lost control of the vehicle.
Mathosa broke into the music scene in 1994 as lead vocalist for Boom Shaka. The group helped launch the Kwaito (dancehall that blends house music and African rhythms) genre into the South African mainstream and the career of Mathosa, who was early on dubbed “the new Brenda Fassie” even by Fassie herself. Never afraid of controversy, she and the multi-platinum Boom Shaka took a Jimi Hendrix-esque turn when they performed a Kwaito version of the newly-rewritten national anthem at the South African Music Awards. Mathosa launched her solo career with her 2000 release Dream, which went gold after only four weeks. The attention surrounding her bright blond hair, extravagant performances, and open bisexuality earned her the nickname “Drama Queen,” taken from the title of her 2004 album. Drama Queen was a hit in both dancehalls and on the radio charts, and garnered her international recognition. She performed for audiences such as the Queen of England in Trafalgar Square, the Queen of Malaysia, and Nelson Mandela for his 85th birthday party. Proving her acting skills, she performed with the Vagina Monologues AIDS benefit tour in Botswana and Swaziland, and kept up a slew of appearances in South African soap operas. In 2005, MTV featured Mathosa for the launch of its first African station. She was also nominated for a Musician of Black Origin (MOBO) Award earlier this year in Britain.