According to a statement from Sony Music, Dikana’s record label, she passed away on December 3 while being treated in hospital, after a short illness.
The singer is the older sister of X-Factor SA judge and singer Zonke Dikana and daughter of the late jazz musician Viva Dikana.
In 2014 Dinkana experienced a definitive moment in her career, which she described as her biggest highlight. She was selected as the opening act for US R&B star John Legend during his All of Me SA tour at the Coca Cola Dome in Johannesburg, and performed at three of Legend’s shows.
The opportunity could not have come at a better time. She was busying promoting her third album, I Came to Love, released in October.
The singer was scheduled to perform on SkyRoomLive on December 5, a platform that live-streams and broadcasts music concerts on social media and on SABC 1. However, SkyRoomLive tweeted on December 2 that she would no longer be able to perform due to an illness.
— TheGREAT•Lulu•Dikana (@luludikana) December2, 2014
The Port Elizabeth-born songstress’s talent extended beyond her vocal ability; she was a music arranger, composer, songwriter and producer.
She released her debut album in 2008, titled My Diary, My Thoughts, with hit singles Real Love and Life and Death. In 2011 she released a follow-up album, This is the Life, which earned her three Metro FM Music Awards nominations in 2013, and two SAMA nominations for Best R&B/ Soul/ Reggae album and Female Artist of the Year.
Her music, often touted for being of an international standard, always had love as a central theme. “In all my albums I always wrote about love, I couldn’t help it. Through music I just came to love,” she said in an interview with SABC 2 breakfast show Morning Live in October this year.
She also boldly shared and expressed her faith through songs such as Life and Death, Saviour and Love Inside. One could describe her as a gospel soul singer, but you couldn’t quite box her into one category.
When online mag Inside Woman Online interviewed Dikana in April 2013, and asked her if she’d experienced any backlash in the industry for being open about her faith, she said: “I’m experiencing it [backlash] right now! It is partly because I am a Christian that so many have taken long to warm up to me and my music.”
“Lulu had a natural talent. She didn’t try to emulate anyone and was unashamed about her love for God,” says soul singer and songwriter, Kabomo Vilakazi.
“I was a big fan of her music. I won’t belittle her work by saying she was underrated but I feel she should’ve been played more on radio and her brand should’ve been bigger.”
Dikana, who was 35 years old at the time of her death, is survived by her three sisters and 16-year-old son, Luhle.