Joseph Shabalala & Ladysmith Black Mambazo Co-composer
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, South Africa’s “Cultural Ambassadors to the World” so designated by President Nelson Mandela, was assembled in the early 1960s, by Joseph Shabalala. A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract – the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than fifty recordings, fifteen Grammy Award nominations and four Grammy Award wins. Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s 2013 CD, Live: Singing For Peace Around The World was awarded the Grammy Award as Best World Music Album for 2013.
Their philosophy is as much about preservation of musical heritage as it is about entertainment. The group sings a traditional style of music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa, where black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.
During the 1970's Ladysmith Black Mambazo established themselves as the most successful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated the group's rich harmonies into his famous Graceland album – a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences, selling over twenty million albums and winning a Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year.
In addition to their work with Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with numerous artists including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, Melissa Etheridge, and many others. They have provided film soundtrack material for Disney’s The Lion King, Part II, Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, Marlon Brando’s A Dry White Season, James Earl Jones’ Cry The Beloved Country and Clint Eastwood's Invictus. A film documentary titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, the Story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award. They have even appeared on Broadway and have been nominated for Tony Awards.
Nelson Mandela asked the group to join him on his trip to Oslo, Norway, in 1993, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As well, when Mr Mandela was inaugurated as the countries first black President, he asked the group to perform at the celebration. Ladysmith Black Mambazo carries a message of Peace, Love and Harmony as they travel the world year after year.