The send-off for songstress Sibongile Khumalo takes place at the Market Theatre in downtown Joburg. Picture:Timothy Bernard /African News Agency(ANA)
The send-off for songstress Sibongile Khumalo takes place at the Market Theatre in downtown Joburg. Picture:Timothy Bernard /African News Agency(ANA)

Musicians, family, friends bid farewell to 'First Lady of Song' Sibongile Khumalo

By Lesego Makgatho Time of article published Feb 6, 2021

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Mourners gathered on Saturday at the Market Theatre to bid farewell to opera and jazz legend Sibongile Khumalo.

The music icon died last Thursday from complications from a stroke after a long illness, her family said.

Speaking at her funeral, her brother Lindumuzi Mngoma, said those who interacted with her through her journey of life were touched in one way or another by Khumalo.

"We are under lockdown hence a lot of people could not be here. The family plans to have a commemoration for her in September which is her birthday month. The family will give further details closer to the time," he said.

Mngoma said Khumalo had not been on stage for some time because of illness.

"For four years she was driven around by her daughter and she would mingle where she could as her stroke was mild.

“Last year she had a second attack and it landed her in hospital. Her last days were hard as she could not communicate and her health deteriorated. Only her immediate and close family were aware of this. We apologise for not making her condition public," he said.

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency/ANA

Proceedings began with the beating of drums and a crescendo of singing by traditional healers, leading Khumalo as her casket was rolled into the theatre.

With the programme led by an orchestra, the stage was draped with beautiful white flowers and candles lit across the stage.

Pictures of Khumalo giving various performances were displayed on the big screen, while some were placed on the stage.

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency/ANA

Musical items were offered by musicians who worked closely with Khumalo, while a poem was rendered by Natalia Molebatsi.

The sombre mood soon transitioned into a mini, intimate jazz session with the band playing some of Khumalo's songs like Lava Vivi (Thando's Groove). This had mourners up on their feet for a moment singing along to the band.

Mourners were taken through her life journey through the reading of an eulogy by Molebatsi, who said that she was destined to heal a wounded a nation.

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency/ANA

Gloria Bosman also offered a musical piece.

Sibongile Mngoma was born in Soweto on September 24, 1957, to Grace and Khabi Mngoma.

Her mother was a nurse and her father was a scholar and musician who co-founded the music department at the University of Zululand.

She began studying at age 8 under a respected local music teacher, Emily Motsieloa, focusing on the violin. She was heavily influenced by the music of local healers and ministers at the nearby church, as well as the Western classical and pop records her parents played around the house.

She recorded nine albums under her name, which were recorded between 1998 and 2017. Khumalo is survived by her children, grandchildren and brother Lindumuzi Mngoma.

She was laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg.

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