Claire Whitaker first saw her playing in South Africa. "Sibongile had just won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and everyone was talking about her - she lived up to all the excitement by performing a solo set which stunned the room. That started a professional relationship and personal friendship which spanned my time at Serious".
Sibongile starred in Hugh Masekela and Mandla Langa's opera 'Milestones', beginning a friendship with Hugh that led to their 'Songs Of Migration' collaboration and lasted right to the end - her final concert in London was a celebration of Hugh's life at the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival
When we first knew her, she was being courted to sing operatic roles like Carmen worldwide, but she wanted to explore her Zulu heritage and her own music. She took part in 'Women of Africa', an epic collaboration with Oumou Sangare, Sally Nyolo from Zap Mama and Hanitra Rasoanaivo from Tarika, which showed her so many new elements in African culture. From there, she created some of her greatest music on the 'Live At The Market Theatre' album and played a sensational week-long run at Ronnie Scott's.
There are so many great memories, including the 'Music On The Line' tour with Amadou & Mariam and collaborations with Jack DeJohnette and British musical director Steve Lodder. It wasn't just her stunning voice - she had a warmth and a laugh that would well up through her body, and she was passionate in making sure that younger singers like Gloria Bosman and Thandiswa shared her audiences.
She died last month, in January 2021, but her spirit lives on in her extraordinary music.