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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist


Robin Fassie doesn’t feel pressured by his last name

Nominations for the seventh Mzantsi Jazz awards were announced last week and Brenda Fassie’s nephew was recognised with three nods.


Carrying a respected and well-known surname can come with its perks. But the pressure to live up to the name can also be too much.

In South Africa names such as Mandela, Sisulu, Masekela and Fassie are some of the most recognisable. Trumpeter Robin Fassie, who is the nephew of multiple-selling and award winning entertainer Brenda Fassie, says he is more inspired than pressured by his last name.

“I’ve never felt any pressure because of it, mostly inspired. I hope to create my own story and legacy in the creative space,” Fassie tells The Citizen.

All that Jazz

The musician is carving out his own journey in music as he recently got nominated three times at this year’s Mzantsi Jazz Awards. Fassie is nominated in Best Male Jazz Artist, Best Contemporary Jazz Album and Best International Collaboration.

Fassie has been part of other artists’ award-winning albums but for these awards he has been recognised for his debut solo work, Intwasa: The Becoming.

“In the history of awards ceremonies, the jazz categories seem to either have less of a spotlight or a very short segment.”

“This is the 7th Annual Mzantsi Jazz Awards, which is solely dedicated to Jazz. I believe what they’re doing is important for the archive and recognition of Jazz music in South Africa,” says Fassie.

“I’ve been part of several award winning projects, both locally and internationally. Such as the South African Music Awards (SAMA) and the Grammy Awards. Although, it does feel special getting the recognition for your own work.”

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The Fassie legacy

Robin’s father is siblings with the late Brenda whose music dominated the charts from the 80s until her passing in 2004. But the young Fassie says his musical inspiration comes mainly from his mother’s side.

“Sis’Brenda is a legend in her own right and has contributed to society in her own capacity as a musician and activist. We will forever be grateful for her,” says the artist who grew up in Cape Town.

“My musical inspiration and beginnings have been more inspired by my mother’s family more than the Fassies. At the time I had no idea how famous my aunt was, because I was really young,” confesses Fassie.

He isn’t the only Fassie carrying on the family legacy. His younger sister, Gemma is also making a name for herself in the industry.

She in nominated at this year’s Basadi in Music Awards in the Nando’s Emerging Artist of the Year category.

“I’m proud of Gemma, she is growing into her own. Yes, our last name does carry weight in the music industry but everything we’ve achieved has been through our own hard work and dedication,” says Fassie.

A Fassie future: Robin Fassie and his sister Gemma. The two are nominated in different awards. Pictures: Supplied/gemmafassie/Instagram

“This makes the load a lot more bearable. We’re just happy to contribute to the next generation, the Fassie Legacy.”

Last month Brenda’s son Bongani Fassie made headline after appearing on tv show I Blew It– a show about people who spend huge sums on money inappropriately.

Robin says he and his cousin are on good terms and have even made music together.

“Bongz is family, of course we’re in contact and have music together.”

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The music

Fassie released his debut project in March this year and says the album has been received well.

“Because I’ve toured and recorded with notable South African jazz artists such as Dr. Nduduzo Makhathini, Bokani Dyer and Zoe Modiga, this album was highly anticipated and greatly received locally and internationally. It has reached as far as Japan and Mexico,” says Fassie.

The music was made over a span of two years during his time studying at the University of Cape Town.

“I got to tour and workshop the music while completing my studies at the University of Bergen, Norway.”

“The band was so in tune and familiar with the compositions, it only took us one day to record the album,” Fassie says about the six-track project.

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