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by World Music Network February 29, 2012


LBM Celebrate 50 Years as South African Cultural Ambassadors

It must be a huge honour to become your country's cultural ambassadors. This year, Ladysmith Black Mambazo celebrate fifty years of holding the South African title.

Before working with the Paul Simon on the renowned album Graceland, the group were a-capella icons in the South African style of isicathamiya. Originally formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960, the KwaZulu Natal-based group has been performing since 1964. This year sees the group celebrating several historic dates. Most importantly for South Africa, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, which ultimately led to the end of Apartheid, Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize win and his inauguration as President of South Africa. Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed at both ceremonies, highlighting their significance, at Mandela's request.

'The music is for the people, we must take this music to the people', recalls Shabalala, one of the two remaining original members of the nine-piece group.

There has always been a close link between Mandela and LBM - ever since Mandela revealed that their music was a great inspiration, the ensemble has stood proudly alongside him. In 2003, Mandela recruited them again as ambassadors for his HIV/Aids global awareness campaign, 46664, named after his prison number.

Mandela and LBM

The band is also celebrating a Grammy nomination for 2011′s Songs From A Zulu Farm and the impending release of a new album, Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friendsthat features collaborations with artists ranging from Simon and Dolly Parton to Josh Groban and Taj Mahal.

It is clear that Ladysmith Black Mambazo proudly retain their title as South African cultural ambassadors. Below is a clip of Ladysmith Black Mambazo together with Miriam Makeba, Paul Simon and Hugh Masekela performing South Africa's National Anthem N'Kosi Sikeleli.It highlights the fact that Ladysmith Black Mambazo can shine both on a local and international stage.