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Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Khaya Ngwenya.

10 Essential Ladysmith Black Mambazo Songs

10 key songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo's extensive catalog.

The death of Joseph Shabalala, the founder of multiple Grammy award-winning isicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has saddened the country, the continent and the world at large.

What started as a crew that allowed any member of the community to join became one of the most successful and most consistent music outfits from the continent.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was formed in 1960 and released their first album Amabutho in 1973 under the label Gallo Records. Amabutho was the first album by black musicians to achieve gold status in sales (25,000 copies).

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has won multiple SAMAs (South African Music Awards) and five Grammys—their first Grammy was in 1988 for the album Shaka Zulu and their last one was in 2018 for Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo have achieved longevity which is a rare feet in the world of music. They have collaborated with a wide range of artists—Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Dolly Parton, David Guetta, Brenda Fassie, MiCasa and many others. They have released more than a hundred albums and compilations.

Below, we pick 10 of the group's key records from their extensive discography—songs that were impactful in their message and remain the most popular and common records from the group.

Note: This list is in no particular order.


"Homeless"

A song about homelessness resulting from natural disaster, and it sounds jovial thanks to the chemistry between Shabalala and the rest of the crew.

China Black & Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"

"Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is a big record, not only because it's a collaboration between Mambazo and China Black, but because it's stadium status music that gives you goosebumps with every successive listen.

Dolly Parton & Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Knocking on Heaven's Door"

Another massive record that combines Dolly Parton's soprano with the group's baritone. You don't have to be a believer to feel it.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Nomathemba"

A song about being ghosted by the woman you love to death, "Nomathemba" is seriously catchy—because what's better than dancing your sorrows away?

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and P.J Powers "World in Union"

A song about hope for a country that needed (and still does) it the most, "World in Union" proved once again that the group could collaborate with different kinds of artists and still make magic.

​Paul Simon & Black Mambazo "Diamonds on the Soles"

From Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland came "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," in which the group made an impact even though they essentially sang backing vocals on most of the song.

​MiCasa & Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Sugar"

In 2014, the group collaborated with South African house group MiCasa for a heartwarming love song. You may notice the voices are different to those of the original Mambazo because in 2014 when this song came out, Shabalala and most of the group had passed the baton to younger members of the group who are currently holding down the fort.

​"Nkosi Sikelela"

An impactful rendition of the song that was adapted as the South African national anthem.

Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Amazing Grace"

A rendition of the popular hymn of the same name performed alongside Paul Simon for his Graceland album, which started the group's international domination.

​"Abezizwe Ngeke Bayiqede"

In one of their most popular songs, the group encouraged South Africans to unite and not allow outsiders to get between them. The song immortalized some of the political parties that fought against apartheid in South Africa, including the ANC, IFP and others.

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