“You will stay in my heart forever, my Diva” – this was the short and sweet tribute shared by jazz singer Mam’ Sylvia Mdunyelwa’s widower, Khwezi “Bhele” Kobus, after the devastating news of his lover’s passing on August 25, after a long illness.
Tributes have been pouring in for the Langa legend who died after months in hospital.
Speaking to Vukani just hours after the devastating news of her death, Bhele, his clan name, revealed his agony in what should have been one of the happiest times of their life.
With a broken heart and in deep grief, he said: “My heart is gone but there is nothing I could have done. God showed us that she was not ours although we claimed her. But God decided otherwise. I was still hoping that she would come back home to share with us another time. But it was not to be like that,” she told Vukani.
He remembered his “best friend” and revealed how he misses her. Bhele said all that is left is reflection of the fun the two had as a family, with a twinge of sadness that some of it happened while he was still hoping that she would come back home.
He said they had good times together and felt there were still more to come. Bhele thanked everyone who has stood by the family during her time in hospital and after her death.
“People have been supportive and even now, they are on our side. They feel the pain we are feeling, a sign that she was not only ours, but of the country’s, as a singer, mother and best friend to many. Whenever she performed, she was excellent. That is some of the reasons people respected and loved her,” said Bhele.
He concluded by sending a broken heart emoji, writing: “Rest in eternal peace, my love.”
The Western Cape Government said it was with deep sadness that it has learned of the passing of Mdunyelwa.
Mama Kaap, as she was affectionately known in the music industry, started her career in the 1970s with the Victor Ntoni sextet. She went on to become one of the great singers of South Africa, who also performed alongside great musicians such as Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Merton Barrow, Duke Ngcukana, Ezra Ngcukana, and others.
In 1990, she attended a six-month music and theatre course in Canada after taking an aspiring music group to the International Children’s Jazz Festival. As a performer, she travelled extensively both locally and internationally. She was a member of the Fine Music Radio management and hosted her own show called Voice of Jazz on Umhlobo Wenene FM. Apart from music performances, she also did radio voice-overs, advertisements and acting.
Mdunyelwa won numerous awards for her work as an artist, and was honoured in 2017 by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport with a Cultural Affairs Award for her outstanding contribution to Women in Cultural Affairs.
The Western Cape MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, said: “Sylvia will be remembered for her powerful voice and charismatic stage presence. Her legacy will live on not only through her music, but also through the impact she made on the South African music industry and the lives of many artists such as Fancy Galata, Lungiswa Plaatjies and many more from Langa and beyond. She remained involved in her community of Langa, advocating for the optimal utilization of local spaces such as Guga S’thebe by local artists and community. She was a true icon who paved the way for others and who continued to give back to her community.
“Our condolences go out to Sylvia’s family, friends and all those whose lives were touched by her music.”
A two-night celebration to honour her was held at the Artscape Opera House in October last year.
The Honouring Sylvia Mdunyelwa concert was opened by saxophonist McCoy Mrubata.
Mama Kaap will be laid to rest on Saturday September 2 in Langa Township.