Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chopping Down the Competition!

Earlier this week we wrote about isicathamiya, and how the style of music has evolved over the past century, but we were remiss in not mentioning Joseph Shabalala and the now famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo! Shabalala was instrumental in the resurgence in popularity of isicathamiya, after his band achieved worldwide success through their collaboration with Paul Simon on his Graceland album. Last year Shabalala received an Honorary Doctorate from the Durban University of Technology for his contribution to the local and international music scene, and for the recognition that he has brought to the Zulu language and culture.

P.S. As an interesting aside, Ladysmith Black Mambazo were originally called Ezimnyama (‘The Black Ones’), but were renamed Mambazo (‘axe’) by Shabalala after he saw how well the choir did in the weekly isicathamiya competitions. The new name was a reference to how the group ‘chopped’ down the other choirs by winning almost every competition they entered!

Click here to watch a 1988 recording of Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing Nomathemba

Image courtesy of

Leave a Reply