Langa jazz legend Mam’ Sylvia Mdunyelwa dies

Sylvia Mdunyelwa was affectionately known as Mama Kaap. 
Picture: Michael Pinyana

Music lovers are mourning the passing of Langa jazz legend Mam’ Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa.

According to a statement from her family, Ms Mdunyelwa passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning, August 25, after a long illness.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our dear mother, a global icon, multi-award winning legendary musician, veteran broadcaster and prolific actress.

“Mama Kaap, as she was affectionately known, devoted her life to the creative and music industry, creating opportunities in the township through music and acting.”

The Western Cape Government said it was with deep sadness that it has learned of the passing of Ms Mdunyelwa.

Starting 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.

Ms 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.”

The family said details of the memorial and burial services will be released soon.