Gospel divas take a swipe at each other

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Mbali Mpele, also known as Umbali, claims that gospel diva Deborah Fraser stole her style.

She made this comment during a recent interview with Sowetan in which she took several swipes at the gospel diva.

She was responding to Sowetan's observation that she sounded like Fraser on her latest album, Iphumile Inombolo.

Umbali said: "Actually she is the one who sounds and dresses like me. I recorded way before she did. Before she came on to the music scene people knew about me and were familiar with my voice."

Umbali released her first album, Ngiyamthand'Ujesu, in 1993. On the cover she wore a voluminous white turban and a Shembe-style dress.

Fraser started singing as a backing artist in 1986 and worked with Sello "Chicco" Twala, who has Umbali in his stable at present.

"The style of dress, in white, was the idea of the album's producer, Reverend Makitiza of the Shembe Church," Umbali said. "He said dressing like that was appropriate for a gospel album.

"In 2000, when Deborah released her first album, I was surprised to see her looking and singing like me."

Fraser dismisses Umbali's claims as irresponsible rubbish.

"I don't know this Mbali character," Fraser says. "If she wants to be famous she must release good albums and stop using my name to get fans. I did not steal anyone's style. I am original."

Before Brenda Fassie died Fraser told the media that her voice had been used to produce some of Fassie's songs.

Brenda's producer, Sello "Chicco" Twala, dismissed the claims but later conceded that other people's voices, like Fraser's, had been used on Fassie's album.