South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo won their fifth Grammy at the 2018 Grammy Awards, confirming their status as one of the country’s greatest cultural exports.
Over the last 40 years, the KwaZulu-Natal ensemble have brought traditional Zulu harmonies, called isicathamiya, to a global audience. They won the 2018 Best World Music Album award on 28 January for Shaka Zulu Revisited, a contemporary reworking of their 1987 breakthrough album.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo first came to the world’s attention through their work with Paul Simon on his multiplatinum, Grammy-winning album, Graceland, in 1986.
However, it was the original Shaka Zulu album – the follow-up to Graceland – that group founder Joseph Shabalala always considered their landmark album in taking the South African sound to the world. It won them their first Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording in 1988.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the album, Ladysmith, led by Shabalala’s four sons since his retirement from music in 2008, re-recorded it. They gave the songs a modern feel without losing the traditional elements that have made the singers’ music so popular.
Thamsanqa, Msizi, Thulani and Sibongiseni Shabalala said that the album was a way to pay tribute to their father and his leadership, as well as a dedication to the legacy of the many members of the ensemble over four decades, many of whom have since retired or died. Ladysmith Black Mambazo currently includes Shabalala cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko, as well family friends Russel Mthembu and Ngane Dlamini.
In addition to a host of South African, African and global music and cultural awards, the group have been nominated for Grammys 19 times.
The 2018 win is Ladysmith’s fifth Grammy. The group was also nominated this year for the Best Children’s Album award for Songs of Peace & Love For Kids & Parents Around the World. That Grammy went to American Lisa Loeb’s Feel What U Feel.
On accepting the Best World Music award in person at the Grammys in Los Angeles, group leader Msizi Shabalala dedicated the win to his father and his commitment to using music as a way to bond the world’s diverse cultures. The group’s philosophy behind the music, Msizi said, was always “that people have to unite… not in fighting with each other but [in] harmony and peace and love”.
Ladysmith are currently on a world tour to promote their new albums and celebrate their continuing success, longevity and fans around the world.
Here are the five Grammy-winning moments that made Ladysmith Black Mambazo a global music sensation:
“Unomathemba” from the 1988 Best Traditional Folk Recording Shaka Zulu
“Selingelethu Sonke” from the 2004 Best Traditional World Music Album Raise Your Spirit Higher
“Vela Nsizwa” from the 2009 Best Traditional World Music Album Ilembe: Honouring Shaka Zulu
“Emgodini” from the 2013 Best World Music AlbumLive: Singing for Peace Around the World
“Hello My Baby” from the 2018 Best World Music Album Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration
Read more about Ladysmith Black Mambazo and other great South African music in these Brand South Africa articles:
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