South Africa wins 10th Grammy – A look at the artists who brought the awards home

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Zakes Bantwini, Nomcebo Zikode and Wouter Kellerman pose with their Grammy award.
Zakes Bantwini, Nomcebo Zikode and Wouter Kellerman pose with their Grammy award.
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP
  • Zakes Bantwini, Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode are the latest Grammy-winning South African musicians.
  • With this win, the trio join the likes of Black Coffee, Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
  • Beyond wins, artists like Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Trevor Noah have been nominated.

In the early hours of Monday, 6 February, in South Africa Zakes Bantwini, Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode won a Grammy award for Best Global Music Performance in the Global Music category for their hit Bayethe.

The song was released on 30 September 2022, with the music video releasing on YouTube two weeks later. On 15 November, the song was announced as a contender at the 65th Grammy Awards. 

In an interview with News24, ahead if Sunday night's event, Zakes Bantwini revealed that the song was put together rapidly so that it would be eligible for consideration at this year's Grammys - the eligibility period was Friday, 1 October 2021 to Friday, 30 Sept 2022.

"I programmed, I think it was on a Tuesday, then shared it with Wouter because we were in three different studios; Nomcebo recorded a day before [entries closed], and on Friday, we had a song already, and we submitted," the Osama hitmaker said.

"The song was submitted at the Grammys before it was even submitted on radio."

The three musicians attended the awards ceremony in Los Angeles and took to the stage to accept their award in style.

Zikode sang a portion of her hit Jerusalema before thanking her family and team, while Kellerman noted that their win was "a beautiful moment on the road to sharing South African music and culture with the world".

Soon after the awards ceremony, president Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated Zakes Bantwini, Zikode and Kellerman on Twitter before thanking them for "placing South Africa on the world stage".

This is the first Grammy award for Zakes Bantwini and Zikode, while Kellerman marks his second triumph. 

With this win, the three musicians join a handful of South African artists that received the prestigious gramophone trophy in previous years, including South African DJ, record producer, and songwriter Black Coffee who won a Grammy in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category for his seventh studio album Subconsciously in 2022. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 03: Black Coffee, winner
Black Coffee, winner of the Best Dance/Electronic Music Album award. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Since its establishment in 1959, a Grammy award has been one of the most sought-after accolades in the music industry. South Africa's association with the event dates back to as early as 1961 when Miriam Makeba earned three Grammy nominations for her 1960 album Miriam Makeba. Although nominated in the Best New Artist, Best Folk Performance, and Best Female Vocal Performance categories, Makeba lost the accolades to Peter Nero, the Belafonte Folk Singers and Ella Fitzgerald.

After continuing to make it on to the nomination list in 1964 and 1965, Makeba became the first South African to win a Grammy  in 1966 in the category of Best Folk Recording for the record An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba.

A political record, the album dealt with the plight of Black South Africans under the apartheid regime. With songs sung in Swahili, isiXhosa, Sesotho, and English by both Belafonte and Makeba, the codeswitching, transnational (and continental) album offered the award's jury what they felt was a sincere and "authentic" representation of South Africa by someone in exile.

A portrait of Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba ho
A portrait of Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba holding their Grammy awards for Best Folk Record. Belafonte and Makeba performed together on An Evening With Belafone and Makeba.

After a 22 year lull, Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined Makeba when the ensemble won the 1988 Best Traditional Folk Album award for Shaka Zulu. This wasn't, however, their first mention. At the 1987 Grammys, Paul Simon's Graceland won the coveted Album of the Year title. The album features South African acts such as Juluka (Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Morris Goldberg, bassist Bakithi Kumalo, and guitarist Ray Phiri.

Following their first independent win in 1988, Ladysmith's next Grammys for Best Traditional World Music Album (later known as the Best World Music Album) were in 2004, 2009 and 2014.  

Reflecting on the ensemble's accomplishments, Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder and retired lead, Joseph Shabalala once said: "This was never a dream a Black South African could ever imagine." Their fifth Grammy came in 2018 in the same category and was dedicated to late president Nelson Mandela.

After Ladysmith had the monopoly, the Soweto Gospel Choir came on to the Grammy scene in 2007, with the record Blessed, to win in the very same category. The choir continued to win in this category in 2008 for their album African Spirit.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Members of the Sow
Members of the Soweto Gospel Choir accept the award for Best World Music Album for 'Freedom' during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Apart from the Best World Music and the Best Folk album categories, South Africa also brought home a Grammy in the Best New Age Album category. The 2015 award is courtesy of Kellerman and Ricky Kej's album Winds of Samsara. According to Rolling Stone, the album, released in July 2014, is the result of Kej and Kellerman bonding over Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They believed it would make an interesting cross-cultural collaboration between South Africa and India.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Musicians Ricky Ke
Musicians Ricky Kej (L) and Wouter Kellerman, winners of the Best New Age Album Award for Winds of Samsara pose in the Deadline Photo Room during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

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