100 World Class South Africans: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

2013-10-04 12:00

World music ambassadors

It’s impossible to encapsulate a country – especially one like South Africa – in the music of just one group.

But Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes darn close.

The style of their Zulu male-voice choral a capella is redolent with history; isicathamiya started as ‘tip-toe’ songs sung by mine workers wary of disturbing guards at the migrant hostels.

Formed by Joseph Tshabalala in 1964 with brothers and cousins (it now features four of his sons), the group enjoyed local success – including, in 1972, the first album by a black musician/group to go gold.

Then, in 1986, they recorded the Graceland album with Paul Simon at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios – which resulted in an appearance on US TV show Saturday Night Live, then international fame, 16 Grammy nominations (three wins), collaborations with other superstars (from Dolly Parton to Josh Groban) and annual six-month-long world tours. Simon has said it was

LBM who sparked the popular interest in world music, which has resulted in success for artists from all corners of the globe. Back home, the group’s Foundation has been involved in job creation for women and has plans for a music academy in Ladysmith – even as they’re in talks about a Hollywood film dramatising their inspirational story.

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