Grammy for Black Mambazo


14 February 2005

In a career spanning 40 years they’ve entertained audiences across the globe, sold over six million albums, performed for the likes of Nelson Mandela and the Queen of England, and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music. Now traditional Zulu musicians Ladysmith Black Mambazo have added a second Grammy award to their collection.

The 10-member group scooped the traditional world music album award – for their 2004 album “Raise Your Spirit Higher” – at the 47th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night,

The album’s release, coinciding with South Africa’s 10 years of freedom celebrations, held the number one spot on Billboard’s world music chart for several months.

Their first Grammy came in 1987, for the album “Shaka Zulu” in the category of best traditional folk recording.

“The Grammy Award that has been so spectacularly won by the isicaphamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo makes us all proud to be South Africans”, President Thabo Mbeki said in a statement on Monday.

“This is the epitome of success for a group which had entertained our country and millions abroad for more than four decades”, Mbeki said.

“Each time we have been so honoured, my heart fills with such pride for my country and people”, the group’s leader, Joseph Shabalala, said in a message on their website. “This recognition by the Grammy organisation is very important for our people and country.”

Shabalala formed the group in 1964 after hearing a harmony in a dream. For many years he had been trying to form a group, but always felt that something was not quite right.

This time he recruited members of his family, his brothers Headman and Jockey, and cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko.

The group entered the local singing competitions that are a part of South African cultural life and soon won every one – each time walking away with the goat that was the traditional prize. It wasn’t long before the group was banned from entering the competitions – although they were welcome to provide entertainment!

Their name reflects their success in these competitions. Ladysmith is Joseph’s hometown, “Black” was the colour of the prize goat, and “mambazo” is isiZulu for “axe” – a reference to the way the group would “chop down” the opposition.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo now consists of 10 members: Joseph Shabalala, Msizi Shabalala, Russel Mthembu, Albert Mazibuko, Jabulani Dubazana, Thulani Shabalala, Thamsanqa Shabalala, Sibongiseni Shabalala, Jockey Shabalala, and Abednego Mazibuko.

The group performs in a traditional isicathamiya style similar to a cappela. Their first recording contract was awarded in 1970, after a radio broadcast.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo first received international acclaim in 1986 with the release of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. Mambazo were contacted by Simon after a DJ friend passed on a cassette of their music. With their first international release, 1987’s “Shaka Zulu”, the group won a Grammy.

The group have recorded more than 40 albums and have fans around the world. They have collaborated with many of the biggest names in music, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, The Wynans, George Clinton, and Ben Harper.

The group have also contributed to the soundtracks of films such as “The Lion King Part II”, “A Dry White Season” and “Cry, The Beloved Country”.

Apart from their Grammy awards, the group has been honoured with Tony awards and have contributed to Clio award-winning adverts.

Ladysmith Black Mamabazo have performed at numerous international events, including South Africa’s own presidential inaugurations as well as two Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.

“Over 40 years ago I decided to promote my tradition and country with our singing, and to this day we continue this journey”, says Shabalala. “It is quite a dream for a Zulu South African to dream.”

SAinfo reporter

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