January 19, 2007 / 6:11 AM / in 12 years

S.Africa's A-listers mourn pop "tigress" Mathosa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Thousands of South Africans paid tribute to pop “tigress” Lebo Mathosa on Thursday in a star-studded memorial concert after the young diva was killed in a car crash this week.

South African musician Mandoza perfoms during a memorial service for the late pop singer Lebo Mathosa in Johannesburg, October 26, 2006. Mathosa, a leading star of the country's home-grown "kwaito" style of music, was killed in a car crash earlier this week. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Jazz hero Abigail Kubheka, vocalist Ringo Madlingozi, and musician Mandoza were among the South African artists to pay homage to Mathosa, 29, a leading star of a homegrown style of hip hop known as kwaito.

Mathosa, known for her racy clothes, dyed blond hair and straight talk on her bisexuality, died on Monday when her driver apparently lost control of their vehicle on a highway near Johannesburg, according to SAPA news agency.

She was a household name in South Africa, starting out as a member of the local chart-topping group Boom Shaka before going solo six years ago.

Mathosa also played cameo roles on television soap operas and local films and was a featured performer in the 2005 launch of MTV’s Africa music channel, MTV Base.

Mourners said she would have achieved international stardom had her life not been cut short in the prime of her career.

“I’m numbed by it. I’ll remember her for all the talent she had. I always said she must now be the generation (of musicians) to lead the way,” said Thandi Klaasen, a jazz crooner from Sophiatown and mother of legendary singer Lorraine Klaasen.

Some of South Africa’s top performers — from jazz maestros to racy dance groups — took to the stage during the memorial concert in Johannesburg.

Friends said that out of the spotlight, Mathosa lived a normal life.

“She was so sweet, so humble, so shy. But when she was on stage she was a tigress,” said Abigail Kubheka, a jazz legend from Sophiatown.

Bridget Masinga, a star of the local TV soap opera Generations, said: “She was a sweet and humble friend. She was here for 29 years and she rocked — laughing, dancing, gyrating until almost her final hours.”

Young fans said they were still in disbelief over the death of a pop idol.

“She’s been living out the wild part of me,” said Masego Mogashane, 19, who missed a day of work to go to the memorial.

“I’m still in shock. I feel like this is a soapie, and that she’ll just wake up and say, ‘Hi.’”

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