Back to top

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Silver
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Awarded for:
Putting South African cultural life on the world map through contributing to the field of South African indigenous music.
Profile of Ladysmith Black Mambazo

In the late 1950s, Joseph Shabalala sought work in a factory. Leaving the family farm was not easy, but it was during this time that he first showed a talent for singing. After singing with several groups in Durban, he returned to his home town of Ladysmith and began putting together groups of his own.

In the early years, he recruited family and friends – brothers Headman, Ben and Jockey, cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko, and others. He taught the group the harmonies from his dreams. With time and patience, his work began to gel into a special sound.

A radio broadcast in 1970 brought about their first record contract. Since then, the group has recorded over 40 albums, selling over seven million records at home and abroad, establishing themselves as the number one selling group from Africa. Their work with Paul Simon on the Graceland album attracted a world of fans that never knew that the sounds of Zulu harmony could be so captivating.

Their first album release for the United States of America (USA), Shaka Zulu, was produced by Simon and won the Grammy Award in 1987 for Best Traditional Folk Recording. Since then, they have been nominated for a Grammy Award 11 additional times. In 2005, they were awarded their second Grammy Award, for Best Traditional World Music Recording, for the release Raise your Spirit Higher. Their most recent release, Long Walk to Freedom, was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2007.

On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, a documentary film which tells the story of Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Documentary Film in 2001. It was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Cultural Documentary on American television.

The group has recorded with numerous artists from around the world besides Paul Simon.

Mambazo has also worked in theatre. In 1992, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago used the group’s singing and acting abilities in a play written about the apartheid era. After first premiering in Chicago, The Song of Jacob Zulu opened on Broadway in New York City in the spring of 1993 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Music for a Play. Shabalala and the group were also honoured with the prestigious Drama Desk Award for Best Original Score.

In 1995, Ladysmith Black Mambazo collaborated in the staging of Nomathemba, a musical based on the first song ever written by Shabalala. Nomathemba was performed in Chicago, where it was awarded Best Original Musical Score. It went on to perform runs at Washington DC’s Kennedy Centre and Boston’s Shubert Theatre.

The group also performed at two Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, for Pope John Paul II, at the South African presidential inaugurations, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and at many musical award shows around the world.

In the summer of 2002, Black Mambazo was again asked to represent their nation in London for a celebration for Queen Elizabeth II’s 50th anniversary as monarch. Dubbed The Party at the Palace, Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins and Sir Paul McCartney on The Beatles’ songs Hey Jude and All You Need Is Love.

The group has devoted itself to raising the consciousness of South African culture, as well as Shabalala’s intention to fund the Music Academy during their US tours.

Shabalala’s appointment as an associate professor of ethno-musicology at the University of Natal has given him a taste of life of a scholar.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has strutted the globe like a colossus, raising world consciousness about the beauty of indigenous music, thus putting South Africa as a country on the world pedestal.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo continues to captivate audiences around the world with their remarkable music.