Rebecca Malope was born in 1968 in Lekazi near Nelspruit in Mpumalanga. Beyond the fact that she did not progress that far in her education, little is known about her early childhood. At an early age she was confined to a wheelchair after an illness and for a time, doctors believed that she would not walk again. Her family was very poor and in 1986 Rebecca and her sister Cynthia hiked 400 km from their home to the Johannesburg township of Evaton to seek work.
Her first ten gospel albums went gold and the last six platinum. Rebecca has sold more than one million albums. When she was 21 years old she and her sister left home and hiked 400 kilometres to Evaton from where they eventually reached Johannesburg.
She entered the Shell Road to Fame competition but was unsuccessful and entered again in 1987 whereupon she won the Best Female Vocalist category. Together with Sizwe Zako and Peter Tladi, she raised enough money to record her first album which reached gold status in a matter of weeks.
So where does the queen hail from? She was born in Nelspruit and that dream to be a singer brought her to Johannesburg in the mid 1980s. She and her sister lived in a shack in somebody's back yard. Their lot in life was not exactly rosy there because they couldn't sleep when it rained. "The roof leaked so badly that we had to get up and wait until it stopped," she says.
A band, Savuka - not the Johnny Clegg one - needed singers and took them both on board. Savuka entered the 1985 Shell Road to Fame Talent Search competition. This was not exactly the stuff of legend where she immediately knocked the socks off the judges. "We actually failed at the beginning," she admits.
But this failure was not the end of the dream because among the judges was one Sizwe Zako, who saw something in the young Rebecca. "Afterwards he called me over and said that we should not feel bad and that perhaps the problem was that the song that we were singing did not suit my voice," she explains.
This pep talk was followed by the dream-making telephone number for the young singer to call so that further work on the dream could be done. It was not that simple - Malope and her sister were so down-and-out they couldn't even scrape up the money for a phone call.
A year was to elapse until another chance meeting with Zako, at the offices of another record company, where they had gone to flog their talent to another producer. "We didn't recognise each other immediately, but when we realised, he said he'd been looking for me for quite some time."
In 1995 "Shwele Baba" sold more than 1 million copi3es in 3 weeks, becoming the fastest selling CD in the history of SA music. She toured Britain in 1997 & 2002, and the USA in 2001.
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