Gospel icon Emma Mkhwanazi passes on after illness

The 64-year-old was the voice of IPCC music for decades

The late Emma Mkhwanazi.
The late Emma Mkhwanazi.
Image: Supplied

Gospel singer and former lead vocalist of the legendary International Pentecostal Church Choir (IPCC) Emma Mkhwanazi has died.

Mkhwanazi, 64, died on Monday after struggling with health issues for over a year, family spokesperson Norton Ramavhoya said.

Born in Heidelberg, Mkhwanazi is survived by two sons. The seasoned singer, who sang for the church choir and band for 20 years will be remembered for her mellow signature voice that shines through in songs such as Bayede Ngonyama, Mehleng ya Bofelo, Ho Dula le Ntate, Maqeba and Hamba Sathane among many others. Ramavhoya defined the late Mkhwanazi as a very caring and loving person who dedicated her life to church and its work.

“She was a humanitarian, loving and caring person who enjoyed laughing. She loved people and was passionate about music. She played a big role mentoring youth at church when it comes to music.”

She joined the choir in 1977 leading the songs alongside choir founder Priscilla Lekaba. The choir spent many years singing in church and various events without recording its music. Ramavhoya explained that Mkhwanazi was part of the group when it recorded its second album O a Halalela in 1990. With their third album Tumelo reaching gold, the choir never looked back. The team of composers included Priscilla Malete, Aubrey Ntshalintshali and Patrick Mncube who passed on few days ago.

Ramavhoya said the IPCC band and choir sold 4 million records with Mkhwanazi as the main leading voice.

“With the choir taken over by music producer Thami Mdluli who teamed up with guitarist Ntokozo Zungu they added distinguished sound and producing albums like Mehleng ya Bofelo and Ummeli Uthembekile. Mme Emma was featured in the Mariya le Mariya Project and she was a lead vocalist in the hit song Koloi ya Eliya.  Her composition Izizwe which she did for the IPCC was later arranged and recorded in Brenda Fassie’s album as Duma Duma.”

Ramavhoya said in 2009 Mkhwanazi left both for the church and choir and began ministering in prisons as well as pursuing Biblical studies. She released her solo album Ngiphakamise in 2012 which was followed by Ithemba Lingu Jesu two years later.

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