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Amambazo and Phuzekhemisi to be honoured at SAMA 20!

Phuzekhemisi.
Two of the country’s most influential indigenous music acts, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Phuzekhemisi, will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards, sponsored by Amstel, at the 20th Annual South African Music Awards this month.

“During Freedom Month, we are proud to pay tribute to these national treasures and music ambassadors who have worked tirelessly to raise the global profile of isicathamiya and maskandi, two traditional music genres rooted in the South African soil,” said David du Plessis, the Chief Operating Officer of the Recording Industry of SA (RISA).

The Lifetime Achievement Awards, sponsored by Amstel Lager, will be presented during the main SAMA 20 awards ceremony at the Sun City Superbowl on Monday, 28 April 2014.


Phuzekhemisi (the stage name of Johnstone Mnyandu) is widely regarded as the king of maskandi music. He expressed his delight at being honoured by the music industry with this accolade, saying: “I am grateful to those who still recognise my music – may they also do so to other artists who have worked so hard.

“No words can describe how grateful I am to receive such an award; I thought the industry and the people had long forgotten about me. This is wonderful, thank you!”

Phuzekhemisi means “drink the medicine” or “one who drinks at the chemist” in isiZulu. Maskandi is a literal translation of the Afrikaans word for musician, namely “musikant”, and a solo maskandi is seen as the local equivalent of the European wandering minstrel.

Hailing from rural KwaZulu-Natal, Phuzekhemisi and his brother, Khethani, burst on to the local music scene in 1989. Sadly, Khethani was unable to fully enjoy the fruits of their success as he was killed in a car accident in 1993.

Phuzekhemisi went on to record a succession of platinum-selling albums, all featuring his distinctive maskandi guitar style. An activist musician, he has often angered those in power with his outspoken lyrics, which highlight social ills in the country’s rural communities in particular. Over the past quarter of a century, this fearless champion of the underdog has never shied away from controversy and speaking his mind.

This true musician of the people is nominated in the Best Maskandi Album category at SAMA 20, for his album KungakhoNilwaNodwa.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo are celebrating an incredible 54 years since their formation, while still basking in the glow of their fourth Grammy Award (for their release Singing for Peace Around the World), confirming the band’s pre-eminent position in the world music pantheon.

But, as these maestros of vocal harmony point out, “the journey of Ladysmith Black Mambazo started in South Africa and the group was celebrated in South Africa before we became internationally acclaimed”.

“Being given the honour of a lifetime achievement award is like South Africa saying thank you to us for being great ambassadors of local culture and heritage through our music. We thank you, SAMAs, and we salute you, South Africa.”

Ladysmith Black Mambazo are enjoying yet another golden year. From 17 April to 11 May 2014, Amambazo, a musical based on their story, will take to the stage at the State Theatre in Pretoria. And in August, they will head to the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival to premiere a Zulu ballet titled Inalathat celebrates South Africa’s 20 years of democracy.

Joseph Shabalala and his fellow music magicians first came to the world’s attention when they collaborated on Paul Simon’s Graceland album, kindling a global interest in world music.

Their isicathamiya style of choral singing was born on the mines and travelled with the migrant mineworkers when they returned to their rural homes. This is where the tradition of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s distinctive, stirring vocal harmonies was born.


Over the decades, they have clocked up many career highlights, among them performing for Nelson Mandela at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 1993 and at his inauguration in 1994, and singing at the concert marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 50th anniversary as monarch. 

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