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LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO SCOOP (article first published : 2005-01-18)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo have taken the world by storm with their special brand of traditional African music. Characterized by tangible joy, harmony and celebration, their music has garnered praise and awards around the globe. This year, the Recording Academy has acknowledged their worldwide popularity and musical genius, nominating Ladysmith Black Mambazo for two Grammy Awards for their album Raise Your Spirits Higher. They are nominated for Best Traditional World Music Album and Best Surround Sound Album.

The 47th Annual Grammy Awards will be screened live on Channel O on February 14 at 03h00 and on M-Net at 19h00.

First introduced to a worldwide audience by their guest appearance on Paul Simon's Graceland album, on the track Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, Ladysmith Black Mambazo's music was hailed immediately as a breakthrough in transcending geographical, cultural and racial barriers. Their first album release for the United States, Shaka Zulu, was produced by Simon and won the Grammy Award in 1987 for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then they have been nominated for a Grammy Award six more times, including a nomination in 2001 for the album Live From Royal Albert Hall.

A documentary film titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps To Freedom, which is the story of Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Documentary Film in 2001. In addition the film was nominated for American television's Emmy Award in 2002 for Best Cultural Documentary.

Their musical contribution to the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago for a play about the apartheid era in South Africa earned them six Tony Awards nominations including Best Music for a Play. Joseph and the group were also honoured with the prestigious Drama Desk Award for Best Original Score.

In 1995 Joseph and Ladysmith Black Mambazo collaborated in the staging of Nomathemba, a musical based on the first song ever written by Shabalala. Nomathemba premiered in Chicago where the group once more received unanimous praise for their work and were awarded Chicago Theater's highest honor for Original Musical Score.

The diversity of their international performance CV displays their versatility - performances at two Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies, a special concert for the Pope in Rome, an unforgettable performance ad the 1996 Summer Olympics, a Muhammad Ali television special, and The Party at the Palace - the event celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 50th Anniversary as Monarch are obvious highlights over and above their multitudinous performances at music award shows and special events.

Joseph's appointment as an associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Natal as well as a teaching position with UCLA in California has broadened his horizons. "It's just like performing," says Joseph, "You work all day, correcting the mistakes, encouraging the young ones to be confident in their action. And if they do not succeed I always criticize myself. I am their teacher. They are willing to learn. But it is up to me to see they learn correctly."

Ladysmith Black Mambazo have managed to maintain their high profile with the release of Raise Your Spirit Higher. Released to coincide with the historic ten-year anniversary of the end of apartheid, the group's first studio recording in over five years held the #1 spot on Billboard's World Music chart for several months.

"It was with great satisfaction and much excitement that we learned that our 2004 release, Raise Your Spirit Higher, was nominated for a Grammy Award not once but twice," says Joseph Shabalala, founder and leader of the world-renowned Zulu singing group. "All of us with the group would like to send our great appreciation to everyone who made this CD the continued success that it is."

On January 25, 2005, Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo return to the United States to celebrate the release of No Boundaries, a new classical crossover recording with The English Chamber Orchestra.




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