Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Joseph Shabalala’s dream to preserve ISICATHAMIYA, the traditional music of the poorly paid miners of South Africa came to life when LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO was born. The group comprising only of family members and close friends then, got its name because of their ability to win at every competition they participated in. “LADYSMITH” is the hometown of the Shabalala family; BLACK refers to black oxen considered the strongest on the farm and the Zulu word “Mambazo” refers to an ax symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” the competition.

The group is regarded as South Africa’s cultural emissaries both at home and around the world. A radio broadcast in 1970 earned them their first contract. The group has recorded and sold nearly forty albums, selling over three million records worldwide. Thus, they are regarded as the number one record selling group in Africa. In 1993, the accompanied Nelson Mandel and the then South African president F.W. de Klerk, to the Nobel Peace prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. They sang for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and performed for the British Royal Family in 1996. Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 1996, was graced with their presence.

Many recognize the group through their performances with Paul Simon during his “Graceland” tour to South Africa. This opportunity lead to further successes in the United States. Their first album (1987) release for the United States, “SHAKA ZULU”, produced by Paul Simon, won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording.

The group has recorded with various artists around the world and provided soundtracks for various movies and musicals. They sang with Stevie Wonder, and Dolly Parton among others. They appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Moon Walker” and provided the soundtrack for Disney’s “The Lion King II” as well as Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America”.

Joseph’s life ambition now is to establish the first Academy for teaching and preservation of indigenous South African music and culture before it is lost. His dream of preservation through education will continue to spread through BLACK MAMBAZO’s tours.

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