/ 12 December 2006

SA musicians shine among Grammy nominations

The Soweto Gospel Choir used to joke about one day winning a Grammy, says their executive producer, Beverly Bryer.

But their joke may become a reality after their album Blessed was last week nominated for a 2007 Grammy in the category for best traditional world music.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian Online on Tuesday, Bryer said: “I’ve never seen the group so ecstatic. They can’t believe it … we never thought that ‘one day’ would come, but here it is.”

But the choir will not be going to the Grammy awards by themselves. Traditional music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo were also nominated — for the third time — and will also attend “Grammy Sunday” on February 11 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.

Their album Long Walk to Freedom, which features guest performances from artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Hugh Masekela, was nominated in the category for best contemporary world music. The group, who have been performing for more than 40 years, were also awarded a second nomination in the category for best surround-sound production.

Speaking on behalf of the eight-member band, lead vocalist and founder of the group Joseph Shabalala said they are “very happy and very excited”.

“It’s like I’m still dreaming and maybe I’m going to wake up, but it’s not a dream; this happened. We are very happy and very excited,” he said.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s first Grammy came in 1987, for their album Shaka Zulu, in the category for best traditional folk recording. Eighteen years later, they won the award for best traditional world-music album for Raise Your Spirit Higher.

R&B diva Mary J Blige scooped eight nominations for the 2007 Grammys for her album Be without You, and Californian rock group the Red Hot Chili Peppers garnered six nominations for the double album Stadium Arcadium.

James Blunt, the Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Danger Mouse, Prince, Rick Rubin and will.i.am each earned five nods, while Beyoncé, Bryan-Michael Cox, Gnarls Barkley, Israel Houghton, Ludacris, T.I., Justin Timberlake and John Williams received four each.

The Sowetan Gospel Choir are currently in Italy and will be touring Europe “non-stop” until they depart for Los Angeles in February, says Bryer.

“A Grammy award is the biggest achievement you can get in the music industry, even a nomination,” said Bryer.

The four-year-old choir are up against the Academy of Magam’s Music of Central Asia Vol 2: Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks; Hossein Alizadeh and Dijivan Gasparyen’s Endless Vision; Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Snow; and Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain’s Golden Strings of the Sarode.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo share their nomination with Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, Malian Afro-pop singer Salif Keita, New York-based The Klezmatics and the late singer and guitarist Ali Farka Touré, also from Mali.

The members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo plan to “just be around home and visit the farm and Ladysmith [their hometown]” until they make their way to possible victory in Los Angeles.