Thandi Klaasen, née Mpambane, grew up in Sophiatown. When she was a teenager, her face was permanently scarred by a mix of thinners and petroleum. Her career as a singer and dancer began in the mid-1950s. In 1961, she moved to London to work in the musical King Kong. She has since performed with Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuka, and others.
Klaasen has been awarded South Africa's Order of the Baobab in Silver (2006) for "excellent achievement in and contribution to the art of Music". In August 2013, as part of the Women's Month celebrations, Klaasen and four other icons of South African jazz - Abigail Kubheka, Dorothy Masuka, Sathima Bea Benjamin and Sylvia Mdunyelwa - were honoured by Standard Bank with lifetime achievement awards. Other awards she has received include the Woman of Distinction Award received in Canada (1999), and a lifetime achievement award at the 2006 South African Music Awards.
- "Thandi Klaasen (1931–)", The Presidency website.
- South African History Online.
- "Thandi Klaasen: Hard times made us tough", South Africa Government.
- "Standard Bank Joy of Jazz honours legends of Jazz", SABC, 11 August 2013.
- Thandi Klaasen biography at Festival International Nuits d'Afrique, Montréal Festimania.
- Kagiso Msimango, "Warrior Goddess: Thandi Klaasen", The Goddess Academy, 20 May 2006.