7 things you didn’t know about: Sibongile Khumalo

The passing of Sibongile Khumalo has left a hole in South Africa's music industry. The internationally acclaimed opera singer, composer, and jazz musician Mam’ Sibongile who passed from stroke-related complications was 63. 

To commemorate the musical legend, we celebrate her remarkable life and the significant impact she’s made on the South African music scene.

1. SHE WAS BORN INTO A MUSICAL FAMILY

Music was a huge part of her life because her father was a music professor and her mother was a singer. They introduced her to music at a very young age and her childhood was filled with singing, listening to, and learning about opera music.

2. MUSIC ACCOLADES

She was a University of Zuluand bachelor of arts in music graduate and she also graduated from Wits University with an honours degree in the history of music.

Her outstanding music achievements and performances earned her several honorary doctorates, one of which was from Rhodes University.

In 1993, she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and years later she walked away with four South African Music Awards.

3. MUSICAL OFFERINGS

Ancient Evenings was the title of her debut album, which was released in 1993. Over the next two decades she released over seven albums that showcased her powerful vocals and songwriting skills.

Her vocal range was astounding: she could sing traditional, choral, jazz, and opera music. Her last album was titled Breathe of Life and it was released in 2016.

4. LIVE PERFORMANCES

Mam’ Sibongile performed on many local and international stages. Some of her most memorable performances were at the late former president Nelson Mandela’s 75th birthday and 1994 inauguration.

Her other memorable performance was with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for a show called “The 3 Faces of Sibongile Khumalo”.

She also performed to a packed stadium at the World Cup Rugby final in 1995. She often headlined local and international jazz festival lineups.

5. MEMORABLE SONGS

Plea for Africa is a solo project she released in 2005 and the lyrics called for peace on the continent because there was a lot of unrest at that time. Her other memorable song is Mayihlome, which is about the battle against HIV/Aids. She will also be remembered for her love song titled Isoka Lami.

6. CAREER PATH

She was once the head of a music department for the Federated Union of Black Artists.

Apart from that, she was also the musical director, composer, and arranger of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Over the years she also worked as a music teacher, administrator, culture activist and researcher.

7. LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

In 2013, the Naledi Awards, which honours and celebrates achievements in South Africa’s theatre and performing arts environment, awarded her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

With a music career spanning over 30 years and many critically acclaimed albums, the great Sibongile Khumalo is gone but she will never be forgotten.


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