Death of South African singing legend, 63

Death of South African singing legend, 63


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2021

The magnificent Sibongile Khumalo died today after a long illness overcoming a stroke. Born in Soweto, she dreaming of becoming an opera star but was unable to break through apartheid restrictions. She was known to her people as the First Lady of Song.

The soprano Pretty Yende writes:

I’m in utter shock and deeply saddened by the news of your untimely passing Mam Sibongile Khumalo.
I grew up knowing you by name, then I saw you and heard you sing, and to me at the time you said ‘YES YOU CAN’. I’m sure I’m only a fraction in a number of people you’ve inspired by your artistry. Because of you, the #prettyjourney wouldn’t even exist!!!! It’s because of you that I am😭
Thank You For Everything Queen

Njabulo Thabiso Madlala adds: Rest In Peace angel. What a desperately sad day. A special spirit gone. A big influence and inspiration to so many of us. Time will heal and with it we will accept. Too soon. We have so much yet to do. But when that time comes, there is little we can do but free you. Love you always Sibongile Khumalo

Pumeza Matshikiza: What a sad night to hear of Sibongile Khumalo’s passing! I have no words! Condolences to the Mngoma and Khumalo family. One of our roots has gone.



  • clarrieu says:

    Ashamed to say I’m discovering this artist right now. The music on the two first YT links above is wonderful and doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before…

  • Andrew Cumine says:

    Unforgettable as Maddalena in ‘Rigoletto’ at Roodepoort City Theatre near Johannsburg in the mid-1990s. What a voice! RIP.

  • Eleanor Hope says:

    Heartfelt condolences to Sibongile Khumalo’s family and friends – we rejoice in the memory of her performance at Kirstenbosch Gardens under Table Mountain when thousands came to hear Handel’s ‘Messiah’ conducted by Yehudi Menuhin on 25 March 1995 with Benno Schollum, Susan Roberts and Algirdas Janutas, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Bonisudomo Choristers, the Kwa Thema Youth Choir and the Cape Town Philharmonia Choir. Rest in peace, great lady!❤