Tributes for music legend Sibongile Khumalo

MPHO RANTAO

TRIBUTES have continued to pour in for Sibongile Khumalo, the late South African multi-award winning music superstar who graced stages around the world with megastars. 

Khumalo passed away yesterday after she suffered a stroke.

Many of her fans took to social media to pay tribute to Khumalo (63), a musician whose voice was used for many occasions including birthdays, weddings and funerals. Her music appealed to different generations and race groups. 

Khumalo received lots of praise for her work in opera classics. She was also honoured by the government with the Order of Ikhamanga for her outstanding contribution to music, arts and culture. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was deeply saddened by the passing of Khumalo, whom he described as a multi-genre performer and music educator.

The president said the National Order crowned the many accolades she had earned throughout her career, and acknowledged her landmark national performances, such as those at Founding President Nelson Mandela’s 75th birthday and 1994 inauguration, and her rendering of the South African and New Zealand national anthems at the Rugby World Cup final in 1995.

President Ramaphosa said: “This is a moment of great sadness for all of us who were mesmerised and moved by the power, sensuality and improvisation of Sibongile Khumalo’s unique voice.

“Not only was she an unmistakable voice on concert stages around our country and the world, but she was a voice of advocacy for the performing arts, for the rights and place of women in our society, and for human rights at large.

“As a music academic, she was also a voice of instruction and inspiration to new generations of artists who had the privilege of learning from a performer who was at the pinnacle of her career. We will miss her greatly.”

Her devastated close friends were still trying to make sense of her passing.

In South Africa Khumalo’s recorded music with the likes of the legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela and nurtured many upcoming musicians.

Khumalo’s enthralling singing talents ranged from opera to choral music, jazz and musical theatre, all while staying grounded by the traditional sounds of South Africa. 

The singer took her talents across the globe from 1992, performing at esteemed venues such as the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Het Musik Teater in Amsterdam, the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C., as well as every major theatre and jazz club in South Africa. 

Many fans of jazz music have hailed the singer’s voice as one of the finest natural instruments out of Africa on display anywhere in the world, drawing audiences in with its visceral presence, sheer warm timbral richness, and expressive nuances of emotions. 

Khumalo also took her talents to the opera, performing  the title role in Mzilikazi Khumalo’s ‘Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu’, presented by Opera Africa and performing with the Cape Town Symphonic orchestra. 

The singer’s passion for music carried on into education, with Khumalo inspiring the new generation of South African singers, songwriters and opera performers through mentorship and performance programs at grassroots level and through tertiary education.

Khumalo was a recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2008, which is one of South Africa’s highest acknowledgements bestowed by the President, for her contribution to the advancement within the arts and culture scene in South African and across the world.

In 2016, Khumalo released her anticipated studio album ‘Breath of Life’, seven years after her last album release. 

Khumalo’s death comes a few days after the passing of another legend, trombonist Jonas Gwangwa.

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