Simphiwe Dana: opens up after going through surgery and completely losing her voice

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Simphiwe Dana: opens up after going through surgery and completely losing her voice


Singer Simphiwe Dana opens up about her vocal cord surgery, battling anxiety and depression and using music to heal her pain. My voice was completely gone. But my doctor said the voice is there, I was just scared to use it. When she performed at Mama’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial at Bassline in 2018, singer Simphiwe Dana struggled with her voice: however, for many, she wasn’t singing out of tune, but her voice wasn’t going where she wanted it to. She managed to thrill the gathering, but she was worried: for Simphiwe, when her disobedient voice couldn’t yield to her command, she knew something was terribly wrong and wasted no time getting professional medical advice.


As fate may have it, Simphiwe (39) was left shell shocked when doctors diagnosed her with vocal dysphonia, a disorder in which the muscles that generate a person’s voice go into periods of spasm. I thought I was going to lose my voice forever,” she told DRUM magazine. The doctors, told her that vocal dysphonia, is caused by voice misuse, straining the voice by failing to prepare it well; like not warming up the voice properly before singing. According to doctors it was like jumping into a football pitch to play soccer without warming the muscles up.

“I’d been straining my voice for years and ended up with holes in my vocal muscles,” said
Simphiwe who has always been used to singing her heart out.
“When I perform my spirit takes over and I’m in a different space, I don’t even see people,” she said. She had crashed her musical instrument, but fortunate enough it was not damaged beyond repair. The singer has since fully recovered after vocal cord surgery and will perform her second Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience this month.

To correct the damage, Simphiwe needed to go under the knife in a medical surgery, but she was worried about how it would affect her vocal range afterwards.
“It wasn’t nodules like Whitney Houston and Brenda Fassie had. Once you have nodules your voice will never be the same again, even after surgery. But it was quite an intense surgery. I was freaked out,” she said. She added that she thought she wasn’t going to come out of the two-hour surgical operation alive. “I even sent my friends instructions on what to do in case I don’t make it out alive,” she said with a laugh. After the procedure, she was happy to learn that the operation had went out well, the surgery was a success.

Simphiwe spent some time in recovery nursing her voice so that it would be back on track once again, she was still frightened, fearing to damage her ‘fragile’ voice box again when she performed with an orchestra in Italy just weeks afterwards.
“I was scared to sing or even open my vocal cords,” Simphiwe recalled.
“My voice was completely gone. But my doctor said the voice is there, I was just scared to use it.”

It has been just over twelve months since the Ndiredi singer went under the knife. The good thing is not only that she has healed, but she has also regained her confidence and composure behind the microphone. “I still have to nurse my voice and use tricks to avoid cracking,” she revealed.

The songstress, prides eight albums, and three live albums, under her belt. As far as she is concerned, she will sing her heart out during the second instalment of the Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience. Happening at the State Theatre in Pretoria on 7 December, the event will feature a 60-piece orchestra, 30-piece choir and 10-piece dance ensemble.