The heavenly voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo have captivated the world and earned them truckloads of awards and accolades. It is through their harmonies and melodies that they have become South Africa’s music ambassadors, exporting isicathamiya music from the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal to the posh and shiny halls of New York, London and across continents.
The enduring strength of Mambazo is that even with global success and acclaim, they have never traded their authenticity for anything. This year, they revisit the South African church by recording a gospel album titled Songs from the South African Church, showcasing the depth, variety of influences and flavours that flow and ebb through many worship services in this country.

Mambazo lead vocalist Sibongiseni Shabalala explains that the album was aimed to record familiar songs that are sung in the churches, particularly with the aim to lift spirits following the devastating impact and loss of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We all lost our loved ones or know someone who lost someone during the pandemic, so we wanted to record songs that will soothe people’s spirits and remind them that God is still with us and He loves us all. It is also a prayer album. Our wish is for all people to heal, be comforted and be strengthened to carry on with life and all its challenges,” he reflects.

The band has always dedicated its life to God and this was an opportune time to celebrate music from the South African church with original compositions inspired by age old traditions.

They breathe new life on Joy Peace and Happiness. They harmonise and elevate this old hymn and favourite to heights it has never reached before.
Wonderfull Love is a simple rendition with catchy if not playful singalongs. The band croons as they glorify the love of God. It’s so high, you can’t over it/ so low you can’t go under it/ so wide you can’t go around it/ oh wonderful love. The love of God is so wonderful/ The love of God is so marvellous/ The love of God is so beautiful/ oh wonderful love.

Unkulunkulu is steeped in Zulu rhythms complete with elements and refrains that locate it in churches that fuse traditional customs and singing with religion. The song is an affirmation of God’s love that doesn’t choose. God doesn’t have favourites, they sing. He loves all those who love Him and His love is big and enough for all. It’s a reminder of God’s undying love to His creation and that in His eyes we are all his people. The song ends with a live rendition of Halala ngoJesu at a venue with boisterous singing along from multitudes accompanied by a faint keyboard. This is a taste of what happens in churches and tents across the land when Africans worship.

“This album was most influenced by the desire of the group to show the fans that we care about them and we suffered together during the tough times and we pray for everyone to be able to heal around the world,”
says Shabalala.

It took the group six months of rehearsing and learning the songs before heading to studio to record, a process that last two weeks.
The album is released under Mambazo Music as a joint venture with Gallo Music. Under Mambazo Music, the band has signed three acapella groups Mahlakaneng, Meduduetsane – Basadi and Gudfellaz made up of Tshepo Mtela (tenor), Poloko Kgwebane (soprano), Joel Maputle (bass and beat box), Puso Moraope (alto).
Songs from the South African Church is available on all digital streaming platforms.