Sylvia’s Path to Greatness
Sylvia Mdunyelwa’s vibrant musical career has spanned over decades and she continues to be a great influence on the South African jazz scene.
Sylvia Mdunyelwa is a South African legendary singer, film and television actress, radio personality, motivational speaker and community leader whose robust career spans over 4 decades and has performed to great acclaim all over the world. She is a product of the 1st generation of jazz musicians to emerge out of Langa the 1st township in CT to be officially established following forced removal of African people from kwaNdabeni6 settlement in the 1920s. These include Temmy Hawker, Moses Molelekoa and Christopher Columbus Ngcukana, the pioneers of jazz in Langa.
Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa was born in the lively township of Langa, Cape Town. The Langa community is known as a mecca for South African jazz, and it is where Sylvia’s love for the music genre grew and bloomed into an illustrious career. Sylvia’s family all had a role to play in her love for music.
Her parents sang in their church and her siblings were musicians who practised in the back of their home. Sylvia recalls times growing up in a musical home. “Ours was a humble home, which everyone in the Langa community knew.
We were not rich, but spiritually we were,” she says. Sylvia’s sister was a soloist with The Dolly Sisters, while her brother sang with the band Harmony Jigs. Sylvia had an uncle, Aspro Sipoyo, who sang like Sammy Davis, she says.
Sylvia’s influence has extended to her three children Banzi, Christy and Hlubi. Banzi teaches and performs marimba across the globe, and founded Imbewu Marimba Community, with Sylvia and actor Kwezi Kobus as directors. Christy works for an investment company, while Hlubi is a singer and producer based in Johannesburg.
“I am happy that my children are doing what they love the most. I never had to push them,” says Sylvia. Sylvia believes that the youth of South Africa will carry the legacy of jazz forward.
She had the following to say about continuing the jazz legacy: “Take care of your legends. They took care of South Africa a long time before 1994. They sang songs in order to teach the next person to be humble. Everybody who plays jazz is a smart person”.
~ Music is Life
Awards & Recognition
Arts & Culture Women Tribute
Tribute to women musicians who contributed to the body of South African music both in and out of the country, who flew the flag of democracy and popularized SA'n struggle throughout the world.
Outstanding Patronage Award
The Arts Patronage Award a way of acknowledging the essential role that patrons play in advancing various aspects of the arts around their communities, the country and around the world.
Film Festival Best Actress Winner Award
Film Festival Award is given to an actress who has delivered an outstanding performance and chosen by the jury from the films in official competition slate at the festival.
IMSFF Media Short Film Award
The Independent Mzansi Short Film Festival (IMSFF) mission is to present quality short films. It recognize and honour filmmakers creating a films under ±25 minutes. Sylvia won Best Actress in short film.
Outstanding Contribution to Arts & Culture Award
It is awarded to South Africans who have excelled and made a meaningful contribution in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sports in their Provinces.
Western Province Cultural Award
This award celebrates individuals and organizations who have made a significant contribution in the sectors of arts, culture, language, libraries, archives, heritage and museums across the province.