Salif Keita and Ladysmith Black Mambazo unite for new single

Two of Africa’s most famous musical acts, Salif Keita of Mali and South Africa's Grammy-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo, have teamed up to release a new single calling for peace on the continent, an end to xenophobia and a united Africa.

Salif Keita in studio with Joseph Shabalala. Photo:
Salif Keita in studio with Joseph Shabalala. Photo:

The collaboration, entitled ‘United We Stand’, was released earlier this month and comes as a response to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa last month that left seven people dead and thousands of foreigners displaced.

Formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960, Ladysmith Black Mambazo are one of South Africa's oldest and most prolific music groups, singing in the traditional choral styles of isicathamiya and mbube. "This song is very powerful because it's talking about culture," said Shabalala at the recording of the song, according to Media Club SA. "How to stay together. How to love one another."

Keita, known as "the golden voice of Africa", has since the 1970s enjoyed widespread success on global World Music charts. As an albino he has personal experience of prejudice and spent much of career campaigning for tolerance of difference. "We want Africa united," Keita said at the recording. "We always think that South Africa is a very good place for peace, for everybody in the world, everybody in Africa. We love it here. We won't give space to xenophobia. No, we want to live here like our home."

Keita told the Sunday Times he had wanted to collaborate with Black Mambazo for a while. "We are in the same boat, fighting this struggle together," he said. "I am very pleased to be here to be making the song together. We are going to continue this fight for love and unity in Africa to the end."

Shabalala said the power of music could help break down the barriers between Africans. "Music is a good way to reach millions of people," he told the Sunday Times. "This will send out a strong message for peace. The song talks about love and respect. We hope it will encourage this."

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