Black Mam­bazo fly­ing the South African flag high

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE - NKULULEKO NENE

FROM win­ning vetkoeks in a mu­sic com­pe­ti­tion to col­lect­ing Grammy Awards, the cur­rent crop of Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo har­monis­ers are as hum­ble, fo­cused and bent on suc­cess as their pre­de­ces­sors, who started out in the busi­ness more than six decades ago.

Eas­ily South Africa’s premier a cap­pella group, Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo’s name went up in lights after they col­lab­o­rated with pop­u­lar US singer Paul Si­mon on their Grace­land al­bum.

Di­a­monds on the Soles of Her Shoes was a smash hit from Grace­land, which was re­leased in the late 1980s, and won a Grammy in the al­bum of the year cat­e­gory.

The group has lost none of their sparkle after in­ter­act­ing with Si­mon – the four Grammy awards that came their way there­after bear tes­ti­mony to their mu­si­cal ge­nius.

Their lat­est Grammy in the best world mu­sic al­bum 2017 cat­e­gory was an­nounced in New York last week.

Hav­ing en­ter­tained high-pro­file peo­ple in­clud­ing the Bri­tish royal fam­ily (Queen El­iz­a­beth, Prince Charles and his late wife Princess Diana), col­lab­o­rated with Michael Jack­son on the track Emafini and with Ste­vie Won­der, they bagged their lat­est Grammy for their al­bum Shaka Zulu Re­vis­ited: 30th An­niver­sary Cel­e­bra­tion.

Speak­ing to In­de­pen­dent Me­dia on Thurs­day at his home in Dur­ban North, for­mer mem­ber Rus­sel Mthembu, 71, a long-time friend of Joseph Sha­bal­ala the founder of the group, said he had jumped for joy when he got wind of the New York an­nounce­ment.

“It was dawn when I got the call. It was mad­ness there­after; I knelt down and thanked God for the great news.

“After we were told about the nom­i­na­tion for the award, past and present mem­bers of the group gath­ered at Sha­bal­ala’s home in Lady­smith for a spe­cial prayer.

“Joseph’s health is not the best, so he is un­able to travel.

“We are all fam­ily; there’s no dis­tinc­tion be­tween old and new mem­bers of the group,” said Mthembu.

He joined the group in 1974 after he bumped into Sha­bal­ala in a tra­di­tional healer’s wait­ing room.

After an en­gag­ing con­ver­sa­tion with the af­fa­ble Sha­bal­ala, he was in­vited to a band re­hearsal and that marked the be­gin­ning of his love af­fair with Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo.

The vet­eran mu­si­cian said the band was founded on strong val­ues and Chris­tian prin­ci­ples and none of the mem­bers abused drugs or al­co­hol.

Mthembu rated shar­ing the stage with other top lo­cal mu­si­cians Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri and the drum­mer Isaac Mt­shali on the Grace­land tour, in­clud­ing per­form­ing with Johnny Clegg of Ju­luka in Lon­don, as some of their best mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences.

Mthembu was ex­cited about the fu­ture for the cur­rent nine mem­bers of the band.

The band’s man­ager, Xolani Ma­jozi, said the group was presently on a three month tour of the US and would be back in South Africa in April.

“When we re­turn, the first stop would be at our founder’s (Joseph Sha­bal­ala) home to show him the Grammy.”

PIC­TURE: EPA

Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo mem­ber Msizi Sha­bal­ala with the group’s fifth Grammy award for Best World Mu­sic Al­bum, which they won last week.

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