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Ladysmith Black Mambazo

From Academic Kids

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a chorus from South Africa that is noted for singing a cappella mbube music. They rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his album, Graceland.

The chorus' members are Joseph Shabalala, his sons Msizi, Thulani, Thamsanqa and Sibongiseni, his brother Jockey, cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko and close friends, Jabulani Dubazana and Russel Mthembu. Joseph's sons joined the group circa 1993, moving up from Ladysmith Black Mambazo's junior choir Mshengu White Mambazo and the Mazibukos (as well as Jabulani Dubazana, Russel Mthembu and Jockey Shabalala) joined at various points between 1967 and 1977. Initially, the group was formed of Joseph, his brothers Headman and Enoch, cousins Albert, Milton, Funokwakhe, Abednego and Joseph Mazibuko as well as close friends Matovoti Msimanga and Walter Malinga. Altogether, the group has had 30 different members at one point or another.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was formed as a result of a dream that Joseph Shabalala had in 1964, in which he heard particular harmonies. He recruited friends and family to form the group, and taught them the harmonies he had heard. The group entered and won many singing contests. They were so good that they were eventually forbidden to enter the competitions but were welcomed to entertain at them. In 1970, they made a radio broadcast which led to a recording contract. Their first release in 1973, "Amabutho", received gold status (the first album by a black musician in South Africa to do so). The albums that followed also received gold and even platinum discs. A Los Angeles DJ sent a copy of their music to Paul Simon in 1985, and this led to their work on Graceland.

After Graceland, Simon acted as producer on other records for the group aimed at the American market. They have since travelled the world, working with performers such as Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, The Wynans, Julia Fordham, George Clinton, B*Witched and Russell Watson, and performing for Nelson Mandela, the Pope and the British Royal family. They have even worked together with the English Chamber Orchestra on their recent US release "No Boundaries", in 2005.

The group has won two Grammy Awards:

  • For "Shaka Zulu" in the category Best Traditional Folk Recording, in 1987.
  • For "Raise Your Spirit Higher" in the category Best Traditional World Music Album, in 2005.

The name of the group is derived in the following manner: "Ladysmith" is the hometown of the Shabalala family; "Black" referrers to black oxen, considered to be the strongest on the farm; the Zulu word "Mambazo" means axe - symbolic of the group's ability to "chop down" the competition.

Zulu Language

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