Five Grammy Awards. Five. That’s the amount of Grammy Awards that have been won by iconic South African Isicathamiya Group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
I’m not a fan of Award shows, to be honest, but I do acknowledge and appreciate their significance in the music industry locally and globally. Music award shows like The Grammy’s that bring artists from different walks of life are worth admiring. Amambazo Amnyama won the Best World Music Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards, which took place on Sunday, January 28, 2018.
On a night where Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar were big winners, a group from South Africa that sings an indigenous genre won the Best World Music Album for the fifth time. Most South Africans don’t know a single track from Amambazo’s latest offering (Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration) yet it more than 13 000 music professionals in the Recording Academy voted for them as winners in this international category.
Through the years, the group has stuck to its roots, to its music and the message carried by it. Like any African music genre, storytelling forms a big part of it. One of their most iconic songs, Homeless, is a prime example of this as it tells a story of being a homeless person living in the city or rural area (strong winds destroy our homes, many dead tonight it could be you…)
The most important thing about this type of music is Africans can relate to it, South African understand it’s message and the world appreciates the production, authenticity, and artistry it has.
I truly believe SA Hip Hop could learn a thing or two from Black Mambazo when it comes to identity which could benefit the country when it comes to world recognition. Our Hip Hop lacks identity when viewed from a global point of view and this has undoubtedly hindered any chance of SA Hip Hop gaining any international Award until that happens. Artists such as Cassper, AKA, and Nasty C have been nominated for the BETs but all came back empty-handed. Don’t get me wrong, our Hip Hop artists are amazing in their own right, however, the genre still feels super borrowed or copied directly from trends in the U.S. And thus we produce decent quality Hip Hop artists that will only be praised on how close to Migos or Drake they sound. If it doesn’t sound American ‘it’s whack’. This was Tumi’s view on Riky Rick’s Boss Zonke before he eventually dropped it and it was a hit in SA.
As such, authentic vernac artists in SA Hip Hop are fading, to adapt to the industry they are all adjusting their styles to suit the needs of what the masses have been groomed to get used to. Weren’t we the same country that bought Zola 7 and Pitch Black Afro in thousands?
When done right a combination of storytelling, conscious rap that displays identity delivered in vernac succeeds in SA, and probably would globally too. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Black Coffee, Hugh Masekela and most recently the Gqom’ music genre is proving that globally.
A good example of this within the culture has been Okmalumkoolkats fusion of Rap and Gqom music. When I first interviewed him he labelled his music as Prama Stove, I don’t know if he still calls it this but Mlazi Milano is the only recent album within SA Hip Hop that displays proper authenticity, and identity.