Ladysmith Black Mambazo – South African male group
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African male a cappella group. Joseph Shabalala founded the group in 1960. He invented new musical style called isicathamiya (which means go soft, e.g. tiptoeing) for the group. Joseph Shabalala is a soloist in the group. There are also seven bass singers, alto and tenor. They were invited by the American singer Paul Simon to take part in the recording of his album Graceland, which was released in 1986, and achieved international popularity.
On March 2, 1988 Ladysmith Black Mambazo became the first South African group, which received Grammy award. The award-winning Shaka Zulu album was produced by Paul Simon. Since then, the group was nominated for this award many more times, including album Live From Royal Albert Hall in 2001.
In 1988, they appeared in Michael Jackson’s movie Moonwalker, where they performed The Moon Is Walking over the end credits.
In 2014, the group received the fourth Grammy award for Singing For Peace Around The World album. It was the 15th nomination for this award. In December 2015 they were nominated for Grammy for the sixteenth time for Music from Inala album in the category Best World Music Album.
Thanks to them the music of South Africa has spread all over the world.
Let’s find out what Ladysmith is and what “mambazo” means. We have to go back to South African mining towns in the 1960s. Working in the mines kept black workers far from their homes and their families. On Saturday nights they entertained themselves by holding singing contests. Joseph Shabalala discovered his singing talent and decided to form a music group with his brothers, Headman and Jockey, and some cousins and friends. They called themselves Ladysmith Black Mambazo because Ladysmith is Shabalala’s hometown, and the black oxen is the strongest animal on a farm. Mambazo is a kind of ax.
Shabalala teaches the traditional songs to young children.
A film documentary about Ladysmith Black Mambazo, titled On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, was released in 2000.