Khumalo is South Africa’s first lady of song: the most celebrated
member of a musical dynasty marked by an extraordinary vocal gene-pool
and passion for making music; a singer who exemplifies and crowns
the rich and multi-sourced Southern African singing tradition.
Sibongile is so accomplished comes as no surprise to those who know
even a little of her background
born and grew up in Orlando West, the heart of Soweto with
her mother, Grace, a qualified nurse and her father, Khabi Mngoma,
music professor and historian.Sibongile’s
father was a man who celebrated all the music traditions he encountered,
from the ubiquitous choral to a range of indigenous music expressions,
and the full
gamut of western classical genres.
is her father’s daughter in her insatiable appetite for music
and profound belief that no music belongs to some and not to others.
In a way, everything that she does in her musical career is a tribute
to him. She grew
up listening to and singing opera, oratorio and the classical art
song, and these are genres that she still loves to interpret and
voice is, quite simply, one of the greatest natural instruments
on display anywhere in the world. Visceral in its presence and sheer
size, splendid in its timbral richness, expressive in every nuance
of register and emotion, it is a voice immediately recognizable
and always unique.
Khumalo could have been the star of any major European or American
operatic stage if she hadn’t felt so strongly about living
and making a career in South Africa. But she did; and, as much as
it is her extraordinary vocal gift, it is also her amazing sense
of situatedness, in her art and in her being, that makes her the
artist she is. This is a situatedness that informs her interpretations
in every genre (from western classical to township jazz), because
she has lived with them all, and grown with them, and believed in
them as her own.
first formal music teacher was Emily Motsieloa, herself an influential
musician and personality in township circles around Johannesburg.
on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of
Zululand and an Honours Degree in the History of Music from the
University of the Witwatersrand.
at the youthful age of 24, to head up FUBA's music department (The
Federated Union of Black Arts) and then, armed with a Higher Diploma
in Personnel Management (gained in 1986) Sibongile became Funda Arts Centre's Coordinator for three years.
completed her diploma and honed her administrative skills, Sibongile
spread her wings, participating in a various research projects and
working with different artistic institutes, amongst them the Madimba
Institute of African Music and the board of Opera Africa.
Sibongile began to perform in earnest – and the list of her
shows is long and hugely impressive. Notable amongst these performances
was The Three Faces of Sibongile Khumalo, a sell-out show held at
Kippies in Johannesburg which showcased her proficiency in the jazz,
South African indigenous music and opera genres. This performance
also earned her Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music in 1993,
firmly establishing her as a woman to watch on the South African
her operatic interests, Sibongile collaborated with sopranos Aviva
Pelham and Virginia Davids in 1999 for a series of concerts entitled,
Divine Divas, for which she was awarded an FNB VITA Award for the
Best Musical Performance of the year.
has sung in major venues not only in South Africa but all over the
world. Appearances as a soloist with South African symphony orchestras
in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, stand alongside her realisations
of leading roles such as Carmen, Amneris in Aida and Azucena in
Il Trovatore at the Artscape Opera Stage and the State Theatre Opera
House in Pretoria, the Witch in Hansel und Gretel at the Roodepoort
Opera. She sang
the role of Azucena at Den Norske Opera in Oslo in 2004.
been heard at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and
the Barbican Centre. As part of the African Odyssey series at the
Kennedy Centre, Washington DC; she performed at Ronnie Scott’s
in London. Singing the title role in Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Princess
Magogo ka Dinuzulu, presented by Opera Africa, with appearances
also at HetMuzik Theater, Amsterdam and at the Ravinia Festival
Khumalo’s oratorio repertoire includes among others, Handel’s
Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, both the Verdi and Mozart Requiems,
and Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Zulu epic uShaka ka Senzangakhona
midst of a whirlwind schedule of performances, Sibongile finally
decided to settle down to actually recording an album, which she
did in 1996. Her first CD, Ancient Evenings, was an exploration
of the African indigenous music that she had been brought up listening
and it earned her two South African Music Awards - Best Female Vocal
Performance and Best Adult Contemporary Performance as well as Song of the Year for composer Motsumi Makhene's song "Untold Story". In 1998,
Sibongile released her second album, a live recording of a performance
held at Johannesburg's Market Theatre. Aptly entitled Live at the
Market Theatre, this album turned its attention to Sibongile's love
of jazz. Again, the album received public and critical acclaim,
and again, Sibongile took home a SAMA award, this time for the Best
Adult Contemporary Performance.Immortal
Secrets is the title of Sibongile Khumalo's third album, a CD that
continued the work she began with Ancient Evenings. A thoughtful,
introspective and nostalgic CD, Immortal Secrets articulated the
feelings and reflections of a contemporary, sometimes urban being,
seeking to maintain their core identity as a person steeped in African
culture and heritage.
came Quest, an album that truly shows just how Sibongile is the
epitome of the perfect New South African, an individual with a strong
sense of self and culture, who is equally open and receptive to
difference, ignoring borders artificially created by culture, language
most recently, Sibongile Khumalo, an inspired and inspirational
album that moves from the substantial repertoire of the nineteenth-century
western classical repertoire to the equally classic gems of African
choralism and the songs of Princess Magogo that she has made her
2006 Sibongile was the musical director for the `African Soul Sisters’
concert, part of Joy for Jazz in Johannesburg. In October of that
year she was also music director for ‘Soul on Turf’
at Sun City and in November she conceived and directed the 30th
Anniversary Celebrations for the Khongisa Academy for the Performing
Arts, Kwa-Dlangezwa, KZN.
appointed Chairperson of the Festival Committee of the National
Arts Festival, Grahamstown, a post she currently holds.
remains involved with the Khongisa Academy for the Performing Arts
, started by her late
father Khabi Mngoma. In March of 2007, she founded the Khabi Mngoma
Foundation, whose purpose it is to fundraise for the Khongisa Academy
she spent several periods abroad, in March touring Europe with Jack
DeJohnette and others in a collaboration entitled Intercontinental.
The tour ended at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
she sang in Phillip Miller’s Rewind Cantata at the `Celebrate
Brooklyn’ Festival in Brooklyn USA. In August Sibongile performed
in Opera Africa’s Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu, prior to a
tour to Oslo, Norway, presented by Den Norske Opera
return, Sibongile co-produced and directed a musical collaboration
with other esteemed African singers that include Abigail Kubheka
and Gloria Bosman, called SISTAS HEALING OUR SOULS, at the Cape
Town City Hall.
last few years, Sibongile Khumalo has spent a great deal of her
extremely busy schedule honing her skills as a producer, and also
ensuring a legacy for future young singers and recorded a dvd for
the launch of her independent record label, Magnolia Vision Records