Sibongile 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. That Sibongile is so accomplished comes as no surprise to those who know even a little of her background.
She was 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.
For the uninitiated, opera often seems removed from everyday life. But for Sibongile Khumalo, there is a close parallel between her life's experiences and the operatic roles she plays.
In Africa, the opera form was introduced to the Afro-Arabian north from about 1840, and quickly established itself as a feature of cultural life in Cairo and Alexandria. The Khedive of Egypt, Ismael Pacha (prone to grand civic gestures that often ran out of budget but got there in the end) commissioned a series of operas from Guiseppe Verdi in celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal.
"Yes, I can afford to forgive," she said. "I know from personal experience if you don't forgive it weighs you down, it makes you sick, it creates all kinds of unnecessary ailments within your body. You carry the weight for something that you are not even responsible for. So I'm not prepared to carry somebody else's crap for them...have I forgotten? No, definitely not, because if we forget we may do it to other people ourselves, and I don't think we want a repetition of that nonsense ever.
Khumalo has treated South Africans to numerous critically acclaimed performances, most notably: The 3 Faces of Sibongile Khumalo (Kippies, Johannesburg 1992); Sibongile Khumalo in Concert (Grahamstown Festival, Market Theatre - Johannesburg, and Baxter Theatre - Cape Town 1993); performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Johannesburg and Cape Town 1994 and 1995); the Brahms Alto Rhapsody (Johannesburg City Hall 1994 and Durban City Hall 1996); Sisters in Synch with Aviva Pelham (Civic Theatre - Johannesburg and Grahamstown Festival 1994); Rhythms of Africa with the National Symphony Orchestra (Sun City, Durban and Johannesburg 1994); Handel's Messiah with Lord Yehudi Menuhin (Cape Town and Johannesburg 1995); Sibongile Khumalo and Friends (Johannesburg 1995).
She has also had concerts in France - with conductor Hubert Soudant; Egypt - with the National Symphony Orchestra; and London during Africa '95 with the Brodsky Quartet and at the S.A.A. 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the South African High Commission in London.
Khumalo’s immense musical capacity launched her into the limelight when she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award at the Grahamstown Festival in 1993. She has since performed with numerous celebrated groups and artists and has graced a variety of honoured occasions, amongst them President Nelson Mandela's 75th Birthday and 1994 Inauguration. She also led the South African and New Zealand National anthems at the world cup rugby finals in 1995
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