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.
In 1986 Rebecca entered the ‘Shell Road to Fame’ music talent search, but was unsuccessful. Undeterred she re-entered the following year and won in the Best vocalist category with Shine On. The award launched her music career. She enlisted the services of producer Sizwe Zako and engaged Peter Tladi as her manager. The pop debut album of this singer, new to the music business, did not sell well. Rebecca subsequently switched to gospel music and received much media coverage, especially radio play, so crucial to local artists.
In 1990 Rebecca won the OKTV Award of Best South African female artist. In 1993 it is estimated that more than one million listeners voted for her as Best Local Established Artist in the Coca Cola Full Blast Music Award Music Show. She won this in 1993 and 1994. With respect to sales, all of her first ten gospel albums went gold and the last six were platinum. Malope has sold more than two million copies of her recordings. In 1995 her CD Shwele Baba sold more than 1 million copies in the three weeks after its release, becoming the fastest selling CD in the South African music history. In 1996 she lost her father, brother and sister in tragic circumstances. This did not stop her from producing music, which she believes is her divine vocation. Between 1995 and 2004 Rebecca and her backing group Pure Magic toured in Europe, Middle East (in particular Israel), America and Africa. While traveling in Israel in 1995 she shot a 52-minute Easter special for national broadcast on Good Friday. She then contracted to sing the National Anthem at the Double World Boxing Title fight, televised live in 30 countries worldwide.
Latterly she has had her share of setbacks and achievements. In 2001 another gospel musician claimed that Malope saw him as a rival and had hired people to kill him, despite having been of support to him in his development. That year Malope also performed live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2003 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Natal for her contribution to music and also lost her mother to illness. In December of that year she won the Kora Award for Best Gospel Singer.
Rebecca has performed at many music festivals across the country, becoming known as the ‘Queen of Gospel’, and continues to inspire listeners globally. She has collaborated with various musicians to record her albums, most notably Vuyo Mokoena. Though she does sing in a variety of languages, her music is sung mostly in Zulu. In 2004 Malope began her own SABC-2 TV talk show called Gospel Time. Today ‘Ribs’, as she is affectionately known, writes and produces most of her music. She currently lives in Johannesburg where she has her own studio.
In 2004 despite being told she could not bear children, Rebecca became pregnant but then suffered a miscarriage. That year she legally adopted the daughters of her sister Cynthia who died of AIDS-related diseases.
1994 – Best Gospel Singer
1997 – Best Selling Album for Uzube Nam’
1998 – Best African Gospel Artist & Best Selling Album for Angingedwa
1999 – Best Female Artist and Best African Gospel for Somlandela
2002 – Best Gospel Artist for Sabel Uyabizwa
2003 – Best African Gospel Artist for Iyahamba Lenqola
2004 – Best African Gospel Artist for Hlala Nami
1998 – Hola-Ma-G-Man
1995 – Shwele Baba
1996 – Uzube Nam’
1996 – Live at the State Theatre
1997 – Angingedwa
1997 – Free at Last: South African Gospel
1998 – Somlandela
1999 – Ukholo Lwam’
2000 – Siyabonga
2000 – Christmas With Rebecca and Friends
2001 – Sabel Uyabizwa
2002 – Ngiyekeleni
2002 – Iyahamba Lenqola
2003 – Hlala Nami