Five-time Grammy Award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo have given the reasons behind their long-standing decades of success as humility, financial acumen, and working hard to perfect their craft without which they would not have been the oldest active music group in Africa.
Albert Mazibuko, the remaining founding member of Black Mambazo who has not yet retired, said in an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) this week that the group had gone through many challenges throughout the decades, but managed to stay the course by following an agreed method on how to reinvest some of their earnings.
“It is very disappointing to find music groups being disbanded after a few years these days because it leaves their fans disappointed,” Mazibuko said.
“The reason Mambazo has been able to be successful is because we won the fight for money. Many groups collapse because individuals in them fight for money.
“The lessons we learnt when the group was formed are the lessons we still apply today. One of the lessons was to be transparent about the money we make and invest the bulk of it back into the group so that our work will continue and not suffer because of finances. We did this before we even got paid.”
Mazibuko said that another lesson learnt from retired group founder and leader Prof. Joseph Shabalala was always thinking ahead and investing in the group as a business.
“We know that traditionally when you plant mealies, you don’t just harvest your whole crop at once when the harvest season arrives, but you select a portion of the crop as the first fruit and harvest the rest later. When you harvest the rest, you also select the corn that will be used as seedlings,” he said.
“If your mealies [run] out, you don’t eat your seedlings, you’d rather go to your neighbour and borrow what can be eaten than taking from your seedlings. This is a principle we’ve adopted since we started Mambazo.”
Mazibuko also said that as a result, he was happy to see their dream as Mambazo was to take “the unnoticed indigenous music genre” to the world and elevating it to an international stage.
These and more are some of the lessons that Black Mambazo want to share when they host the first annual isicathamiya awards, the Cothoza Music Awards (COMAs), on June 22 at The Durban Playhouse.
The COMAs will be the culmination of a three-day programme that includes a masterclass and the Cothoza Music Concert.
Shabalala, who founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo 60 years ago, has said in a statement that he was very happy that these awards were finally taking place, since it had been his “longtime dream for isicathamiya music to be recognised not only as a national music treasure, but also as a great cultural export”.
Sbongiseni Shabalala, one of Professor Shabalala’s sons and of a younger generation in the group, said the awards ceremony would not only be honouring isicathamiya artists, it would also be a night filled with entertaining live performances.
Shabalala said the COMAs would honour and acknowledge great contributions made by isicathamiya groups dating back from the era of Solomon Linda, who created the globally known classic Imbube.
The awards will reportedly also acknowledge isicathamiya artists who are the torch-bearers of the music genre, such as former Ukhozi FM station manager Welcome “Bhodloza” Nzimande.
The concert and masterclass are part of the music group’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo Mobile Academy Programme which runs master classes across the country and also discovers and develops isicathamiya and indigenous music talent.
“The COMAs are designed to create a sustainable market for the Isicathamiya music genre and see it getting the media exposure it deserves. Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s dream of leaving a lasting legacy for our indigenous music,” he said.
“This programme aims to revive and develop isicathamiya music by developing new groups and propelling established music groups who want to take their music to greater heights.”
Shabalala said that his father had instilled discipline, respect, and humbleness in them, adding that this was the cornerstone of their success and a reason why they were not followed by controversy.
“There are no celebrities in the group. We are just humble human beings. My father taught us to respect everyone because if you offend one person, you might be offending a fan of our work and Black Mambazo will thus be one less fan,” Shabalala said.
“Even when we used to travel in a branded car and people [waved] at us, my father taught us that we should all wave back because we are a group and people greet a group, not individual members.”
Shabalala thanked the department of arts and culture for sponsoring the inaugural isicathamiya awards, and said that the group was preparing a big concert for their fans at the State Theatre in Pretoria very soon “because people always tell us we spend more time abroad”.
– African News Agency