Sibongile Khumalo

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KHUMALO, Sibongile (1957-2021) [1]. South African singer, musical performer and jazz singer. She was born Sobongile Mngoma but performed under her married name, Sibongile Khumalo.


Sibongile Khumalo was a virtuoso vocalist whose ease of motion between opera, jazz and South African popular music made her a symbol of the country’s new social order after the end of Apartheid. She was born in Soweto on Sept. 24, 1957, to Grace and Khabi Mngoma. Her mother was a nurse; her father was a scholar and musician who helped found the music department at the University of Zululand.

Ms. Khumalo’s husband was the actor and director Siphiwe Khumalo, who died in 2005.

She died after a long illness on 28 January 2021. She was 63.


Sibongile began studying at age 8 under a respected local music teacher, Emily Motsieloa, focusing on the violin. She was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in music from the University of Zululand and BA Honours from University of the Witwatersrand. She also obtained a higher diploma in Personnel Management from the University of the Witwatersrand.


She taught and researched music at the University of Zululand, but she also sought opportunities to reach children who lacked access to major institutions. She held teaching and administrative positions at the Fuba Academy of Arts in Johannesburg (heading up the music department) and the Madimba Institute of African Music in Soweto.

For a time, she was a board member and Arts Centre Coordinator of the Funda Community College.

In 2003, she was the vice chairman of the National Arts Festival Committee.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

After making her debut as Carmen in a production of the opera in Durban in 1997, she earned wide acclaim for her roles in South African operas and plays, including UShaka kaSenzangakhona, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu and Gorée, all of which toured internationally. She won a Vita ward for her performance as Ma-Bantjies in the opera, Buchuland.

She collaborated with the scholar Mzilikazi Khumalo (no relation) to create Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, billed as the first Zulu opera, centered on the princess’s own compositions. The production toured to the United States in 2004.

As singer/songwriter

She was equally known for her catchy original compositions and her renditions of South African jazz standards like the straight-ahead anthem “Yakhal’ Inkomo,” written by the saxophonist Winston Ngozi, which became a calling card. When the apartheid government fell and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994, Ms. Khumalo performed at his inauguration. Mandela famously referred to her as the country’s “first lady of song,” and the title stuck.

The next year, when South Africa went to the Rugby World Cup, she was invited to perform both her home country’s national anthem and that of its opponent, New Zealand.

In 1996, Sony released her debut album, “Ancient Evenings,” which included a number of originals and loosely adhered to a vocal-driven South African pop style. Over the next two decades she would release a stream of albums, earning four South African Music Awards.


Won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award at the Grahamstown Festival in 1993.

She was awarded an Honorary Licentiate in Music from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

She received honorary doctorates from the University of Zululand, Rhodes University and the University of South Africa.

For her stage performances, she garnered three Vita Awards, including Best Performance in a Leading Role for Buchuland.

In 2008 she received the Order of Ikhamanga in silver, among the country’s highest honors for contributions to the arts.


Wikipedia [2]

National Arts Festival Souvenir Programme, 2003.

'Sibongile Khumalo, South Africa’s ‘First Lady of Song,’ Dies at 63', New York Times, 1 February 2021