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On Sunday, January 26, 2014, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo received the GRAMMY® Award for Best World Music Album for their 2013 album Live: Singing For Peace Around The World. This is the fourth GRAMMY® win in the group's long and illustrious history.
When learning of the honor the group said, "In 1993, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he told us that we needed to spread his message of peace everywhere we traveled. That has been our mission ever since. When we recorded this the album, we dedicated it to Nelson Mandela and his message of peace. We can now dedicate this GRAMMY® Award to the father of our nation, the late Nelson Mandela. His message of peace will never be forgotten."
In a career that spans over 50 years, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo has garnered multiple GRAMMY® awards, nominations and critical acclaim, and continue to sell out concerts in prestigious venues worldwide. Reviewing a recent performance at Carnegie Hall, Jon Pareles of The New York Times noted a distinctly Zulu quality of the group's songs when he described them as "music that had survived sorrows to find benedictions in the aftermath." The group's latest album, Always With Us, exemplifies this spiritual dimension, paying tribute to Nellie Shabalala, the late wife of Black Mambazo founder-leader Joseph Shabalala, by making a fully-produced cycle of songs featuring their own voices alongside vocals she recorded before her death in 2002. The group is currently on an extensive U.S. tour through March; please see below for an itinerary.
The raw material for Always With Us is a collection of songs Nellie recorded with her own singing group from the township church she and her husband founded. Joseph and his fellow singers have spent several years mixing their vocals with Nellie's to create all new songs. The result is a collection of ten hauntingly beautiful recordings in which Nellie is rejoined with her husband and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It is the first album in their over forty year recording history to feature female Zulu vocalists singing traditional songs.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded Always With Us over several sessions in 2011 and 2012. Once they finished recording their own vocals, the meticulous task of bridging the decade long gap between Nellie's recordings and the new takes, made all the more difficult by the fact that no more than simple edits could be done to the originals, took several years. Because honoring the memory of Nellie was critical, Black Mambazo would not allow the album's release until they felt the quality was such that it stood as a worthy tribute to the group's matriarch. Joseph Shabalala says, "It was important for us to not just record these songs, but to create beautiful music. From the first day we worked with Nellie's recordings to the final day when we new we were finished, our primary objective was to make a collection of beautiful songs. I know we have done this and we are proud to present this CD for the world to listen to."
Albert Mazibuko, Ladysmith Black Mambazo member since 1969, says "Nellie was not just Joseph's wife. She was a mother, sister-in-law or cousin to every member of the group. She helped us at home in so many ways while we were traveling the world. In Zulu, we have a phrase, 'Uyohlale Unathi,' which means 'someone who is no longer with us in body but stays with us in spirit.' Singing with Nellie on these songs gave us peace and allows us to honor her life."