Opera czar Dr Sibongile Khumalo ran her race

Yesterday, we received the sad news of the passing of legendary Dr Sibongile Khumalo (mntungwa) due to stroke related complications.

The Orlando born Jazz and Opera singer was an epitome of arts in the country, and she is one of the people who made me fall in love with Opera, to such an extend I would unfailing attend the annual Orchestra event at Parktown.

Yes, one might say “you were only there to hobnob with the elite of this country” but it was more than that. Now the truth is out.

Albeit I did not engage with sis’ Sibongile for an interview, I did bump onto her on many occasions with her peers namely Mme Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Tshepo Tshola and ntate Caiphus “Katse” Semenya, always cracking a laugh et al.

A czar of Opera, she learnt the ropes from her father Khabi Mngoma, 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. His Son followed in her footsteps.

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.

Dr Khumalo 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. She was appointed to the Order of Ikhamanga in 2008.

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 1995in SA. She often headlined local and international jazz festival lineups.

Sis’ Sibongile will be remembered for her songs Mayihlome that was dedicated to the AIDS battle, Isoka Lami- a love song and notably my old-time favourite Yakhal’Inkomo.

In 2013 during Africa Cup of Nations, she was appointed musical director, composer, and arranger of the opening and closing ceremonies. In the same year, she was presented with Lifetime Achievement Award at Naledi Awards.

With a music career spanning over 30 years and many critically acclaimed albums, one can easily sum it ‘she ran her race’.

Since her passing, tributes have been pouring in, with the ANC sending its condolences: “We join the nation in paying tribute to this music legend who became a beacon of hope and who inspired many artists and individuals in our country.

“We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and fans. May they find solace in knowing that their loss is the nation’s loss,” said Pule Mabe- national spokesperson.

Music genius Tshepo “Village Pope” Tshola, who is in Lesotho- says he was devastated that ‘her’ friend is no more and went on to say the industry has lost a giant.

Another great ntate Semenya, who is attending a funeral of his peer and legendary trombonist Jonas ‘Moremogolo’ Gwangwa, says losing a friend like Sibongile is worrisome because all of his friends are dying ‘in-front of my eyes’.

The Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Geoffrey Makhubo says: “From the streets of Orlando in Soweto, Mme Khumalo placed South Africa on the international stage through her melodic sounds.  

“As a daughter of Johannesburg, she now joins other iconic artists who made this City great. Her passing comes five days after the passing of legendary jazz musician Ntate Jonas Gwangwa. The arts fraternity has truly lost an icon. Our country is surely poorer without her.”  

“On behalf of the City of Johannesburg and indeed on my own behalf, we extend heartfelt condolences to her Family, friends and colleagues of this iconic singer and music teacher,” said Mayor Makhubo.  

She was 63. 

A kleva van kasie’ is no more. Siyabonga, Sibongile!

Memorial and funeral details will be made soon.

Image (Meeting of great minds. Dr Sibongile Khumalo-performs alongside his fellow star the late Bra Hugh Masekela at one of her shows).

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