All-female African-American a cappella group joins forces with all-male a cappella choir from South Africa
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The Music: all-female a cappella takes on gospel, blues, jazz, and R&B
The Name: it’s based on a Psalm, according to founding member Louise Robinson, who said “Sweet Honey speaks of a land that is so rich when you break the rocks open, honey flows. And we thought it was something like us African-American women.”
A Few of Their Accomplishments: winning a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album, performing at the White House for Black History Month, being fluent in bee-speak
Their Latest: their first studio album in nine years, 2015’s #LoveInEvolution, which celebrates the group’s 40th anniversary and presents a new four-member lineup
Their Focus: New hits such as “Second Line Blues” and “IDK, But I’m LOL!” urgently explore such issues as racial violence and ecological degradation.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Their Beginnings: They were founded in the midst of apartheid in 1964 by Joseph Shabalala, who dreamed of harmonies for months. He eventually took the sound he heard in his sleep and taught it to a group of tenors, basses, and altos.
That Sound: Ethereal a cappella that incorporates traditional Zulu singing into a signature blend that Shabalala calls Nomathemba, which means “hope”
Where You’ve Heard Nomathemba: on Paul Simon’s seminal 1986 album Graceland, on one of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s 50+ albums, or the time Shabalala sleepwalked into your home
Their Famous Fans: Paul Simon, who said that “sheer joy and love emanates from [the group’s] being and produced 1987’s Shaka Zulu (which earned the group the first of three Grammy awards); the late Nelson Mandela, who called the group “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors” and asked them to perform at his inauguration
Their Latest 2014’s Always With Us, a tribute to the group’s matriarch and Shabalala’s wife, Nellie, who passed away in 2002. The album honors her by mixing the group’s voices with recordings of Nellie’s church choir.
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