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Ladysmith Black Mambazo composed the music for movies such as A Dry White Season and Cry, The Beloved Country.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is undoubtedly one of South Africa's best-loved ensembles. The group began when founding member Joseph Shabalala gave up his life as a factory worker in 1960 to focus on his passion, music,.
He called his group Ladysmith Black Mambazo after the name of his rural hometown of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. Black refers to the dark-skinned oxen, the strongest of all farm animals, his family kept, while mambazo is the Zulu word for axe, a symbol of the group's musical strength.
The name immediately gave the band an African identity, which they then brought to life through their scintillating music.
These award-winning South African musicians began to explore the sounds of traditional isicathamiya music, which developed among the mineworkers of South Africa. They then began to blend it with the vocal harmonies of gospel music, winning many local fans along the way. In 1970, Ladysmith Black Mambazo got their first recording contract.
Their international reputation began to grow soon after and, in the 1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and collaborated with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, using their rich harmonies to great effect on his album Graceland.
That album introduced the band's distinctive South African sound to the international audience and Graceland went on to win many awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year.
A year later Shaka Zulu, Ladysmith Black Mambazo's first international release, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then, the group has received 15 Grammy Award nominations and three wins, including one, again for Best Traditional Folk Album, in 2009.
In January 2011, they released Songs From A Zulu Farm which was named one of the five 'Best World Music Releases' for 2011. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award but did not win. They continue to work on new productions, including a CD of American gospel songs.
Over the years, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has collaborated with many artists, including Stevie Wonder, Josh Groban, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and Ben Harper, and they are also regularly invited to perform at special occasions, including two Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, a concert for Pope John Paul II, the South African Presidential inaugurations, and the 1996 Summer Olympics.
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Learn more about Ladysmith Black Mambazo by watching the Academy Award-nominated documentary 'On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom – The Story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo'.