Women December 23, 2020 at 10:42 am

GeeSixFive, the 65-year-old SA hitmaker who died of Covid-19 just weeks after finding fame

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor December 23, 2020 at 10:42 am

December 23, 2020 at 10:42 am | Women

Olpha “GeeSixFive” Selepe inspired many in South Africa and beyond with her hit song that demonstrated to all and sundry that it's never too late to achieve one's dreams. Image via Twitter/Sbu Mpungose

South Africa’s Olpha “GeeSixFive” Selepe became an internet sensation this November with her hit single Obani Labantu. Dubbed “a December hit”, the song soon went viral as fans widely shared it online, topping the SA iTunes music charts. Before long, the 65-year-old academic and amapiano (a type of house music) star had found fame. But in just a few weeks of stardom, Selepe breathed her last after testing positive for Covid-19.

She had received her master’s degree and was working towards her Ph.D. when she passed away. Her friends and fans flooded social media with tributes and messages of condolences to her family. Her niece, Sbu Mpungose, in a short statement on social media, said: “She [Selepe] displayed leadership throughout her life, was the epitome of fearlessness and inspired many with her single Obani Labantu…”

Indeed, Selepe inspired many in South Africa and beyond with her hit song that demonstrated to all and sundry that it’s never too late to achieve one’s dreams. Weeks before her death, the viral star told the media that she wanted to make a statement about jealousy.

“When I composed this song, I wanted to address a question that people are always thinking: ‘Who are these people talking about me?’ You know, who are these jealous people, who are these people laughing at me? So I wanted to send a message,” Selepe said.

Born in Emadadeni in Newcastle, KZN, the 65-year-old former teacher had, before the hit single, produced an album of children’s rhymes in isiZulu. She had demonstrated her love for music while training at a teacher’s college, where she eventually became an amazing choir conductor performing in regional and national competitions, News24 reported.

This year, when the coronavirus pandemic, together with its strict distancing rules, kept many people on edge, others tried out new things and showed their creativity. This was also the time that Selepe, who had two years before completed her master’s degree, decided to record and release her own single — a pop song. When she told her family about it, they asked her to forget the idea because they felt it was humiliating.

“I’m going to pursue this dream of mine, and it doesn’t matter what you think,” Selepe told her children and siblings, according to her niece Mpungose.

The retired teacher went on to record the song in secret and gave herself the stage name GeeSixFive – a reference to “Gogo”, which means grandmother, and her age, BBC reported. She subsequently released a music video in her iconic two-piece suits. Soon, her song was everywhere. Selepe, becoming known by her stage name GeeSixFive, appeared on radio, TV and newspapers. Her name was on everyone’s lips. Sadly, her fame lasted for a very short time.

“A sharp dresser, a hard worker and a lover of life, she leaves behind three children, a number of grandchildren, her sister, nieces and nephews,” a statement released after the star’s death said.

Selepe didn’t see herself doing another song though. In one of her last interviews before her death, the singer said Obani Labantu was her last project. “I’ve already done what I’d dreamt of,” she said. “Now I’m making room for others.”

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