The Executive Mayor, Cllr Geoff Makhubo has described late legendary songstress, Sibongile Khumalo as a jazz pioneer with a mellifluous voice that transcended generations.
Tributes have been pouring in since Khumalo’s passing on Thursday, 28 January, reportedly after suffering stroke-related complications. She was 63.
A renowned cognoscenti of classical jazz, opera and indigenous music, Khumalo enjoyed an internationally acclaimed career spanning over 28 years. She was a doyenne of arts and culture and had long been dubbed by her media colleagues as South Africa’s first lady of song.
“We’ve lost a true jazz pioneer. We will miss your mellifluous voice; may your music live forever,” says Cllr Makhubo.
The iconic songstress and music teacher began performing professionally in 1992 after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from the University of Zululand and an honours degree in the History of Music from Wits University. She toured the world extensively, performing a melange of classical jazz, indigenous South African music and opera.
Khumalo followed in her father’s footsteps by pursuing a career in music and has been described interchangeably as South Africa’s empress of song. She was one of the most celebrated members of the local musical dynasty, marked by an extraordinary vocal gene-pool and passion for making music.
“From the streets of Orlando in Soweto, Mme Khumalo placed South Africa on the international stage through her melodic sounds,” Cllr Makhubo adds.
She’s been lauded as one of the great singing talents of her time and has inspired the creation of new musical sounds by South African composers, both in classical jazz, opera and traditional music. She worked with everyone from Hugh Masekela to Jack Dejohnette, Jerome Harris and a host of other local and international acts.
“As a daughter of Joburg, she made the City great,” says the Mayor.
Khumalo held several accolades under her belt, with some of her most notable ones recognising her as a musician of substance, including the 1993 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music as well as a few South African Music Awards for best female performance and best adult contemporary performance.
She held an honorary licentiate in music from the University of South Africa and had expanded her career to encompass producing and directing, which was the impetus for the creation of her record label in 2007.
Cllr Makhubo says Khumalo was a doyenne of arts and culture, having received the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her excellent contribution to the development of South African arts and culture in the musical fields of jazz.
“The arts fraternity has truly lost an icon. Our country is surely poorer without her. On behalf of the City, we extend heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues,” says the Mayor.