Multi-Grammy Award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala has fulfilled his longtime dream for the isicathamiya music to be recognised as a national music treasure and cultural export by launching an awards ceremony dedicated to the genre.
The Cothoza Music Awards, which are part of the legendary group’s programme called the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Mobile Academy — an initiative aimed at reviving and developing isicathamiya music — will be held at the Durban Playhouse on June 22.
Through the programme, the group which has shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Dolly Parton, runs master classes across the country and has also discovered and developed talent on isicathamiya and indigenous music.
The Cothoza Music Awards will honour and acknowledge great contributions made by isicathamiya groups dating back from the era of Solomon Linda, the singer and composer of the world-class song Mbube which became the pop hit as The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
The legendary a capella group gained world-wide prominence in 1987 after its watershed collaboration with Paul Simon on the award-winning hit album Graceland, producing hits such as Homeless and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.
The group, which late former president Nelson Mandela once described Mambazo as SA’s “ambassadors of song”, also performed at two Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, and also sang at the golden jubilee to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the group’s manager Xolani Majozi said the idea of launching the isicathamiya awards was the idea of its founder Shabalala who was forced to early retirement because of ill health.
“Professor Shabalala is very happy that the awards are finally taking place since it has been his longtime dream for isicathamiya music to be recognised as a national music treasure and as a great cultural export.”
Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa paid a courtesy visit to Shabalala’s home in Ladysmith during his election campaign in the province ahead of the May 8 poll. Ramaphosa said he was honoured and privileged to be at Shabalala’s home. The 77- year-old retired from the group about four years ago.
Ramaphosa also congratulated Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the group’s longevity. “They have been in existence for 59 years, this is the longest-performing group in the world. That, as South Africans, should give us pride,” he said.