Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa was born in the township of Langa in Cape Town. Mdunyelwa started her singing career in the 1970s when she joined Victor Ntoni’s sextet. She worked alongside other leading Cape Town Jazz musicians amongst who were the Ngucakana brothers, Ezra and Duke Ngcukana, Winston Mankunku, Nick Carter and Merton Barrow.
She became involved in developing talent of young and aspiring musicians. For instance, in 1990 she took a group of young musicians to the International Children’s Jazz Festival in Canada. On her return she was awarded a scholarship by the Educational Opportunities Council, and subsequently went to study at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She used this opportunity to polish her skills in music and theater.
Upon her return, she was invited to tour Germany where she performed at the Berlin Festival in 1994. She was later part of a cultural exchange programme where she went to Bogota, Colombia in South America to perform in 1997. The following year (1998) she released her album African Diva, Live in Africa which focused on her performances at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown. In 1999 Mdunyelwa got a contract with Blue Note and in 2000 recorded her first studio album Ingoma (Song) which was produced by Victor Ntoni.
Mdunyelwa was awarded the ‘Golden Guachupe' award in recognition for her community work in Cape Town. She became part of the BBC production o the life of Bishop Desmond Tutu. She presents Voice of Jazz, a programme on P4 Radio, a Cape Town radio station. She is also a member of the board of Fine Music Radio, a classical jazz station in Cape Town.