In the realm of musical prowess, South Africa stands as a beacon of talent and cultural richness that has resonated worldwide.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), responsible for the prestigious Grammy Awards, has consistently acknowledged the exceptional contributions of South African musicians to the global music landscape. In this article, we delve into the accomplished individuals who have claimed this esteemed accolade, shedding light on both those who remain connected to their roots in the motherland and the unsung heroes who have flourished on international stages.

South Africa’s musical heritage is as diverse as it is vibrant, with artists from various genres making their mark on the global stage. The Grammy Awards, a testament to excellence in the music industry, have recognized and honored the outstanding achievements of several South African musicians.

In the following sections, we will explore the journeys of these musical trailblazers, celebrating their accomplishments and the indelible mark they have left on the international music scene. Join us as we honor the South African Grammy Award winners and nominees, showcasing the country’s undeniable impact on the world of music.

In the following sections, we will explore the journeys of these musical trailblazers, celebrating their accomplishments and the indelible mark they have left on the international music scene. Join us as we honor the South African Grammy Award winners and nominees, showcasing the country’s undeniable impact on the world of music.

1. Miriam Makeba (1 Grammy win)

Zenzile Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba (Best Folk Recording)

South African singer, Mariam Makeba left an indelible mark on the world stage by shining a spotlight on the injustices of the Apartheid regime. Her pivotal moment came in 1963 when she addressed the United Nations, exposing the harsh realities of Apartheid to a global audience. Forced into exile in the USA after the South African government revoked her citizenship following the UN speech, Makeba’s resilient spirit propelled her to become an internationally renowned musician.

Fondly known as Mama Afrika, Miriam Makeba’s illustrious history with the Grammy Awards spans back to 1961, marking the beginning of a notable journey that would see her nominated nine times and earning one Grammy Award during her lifetime. At her inaugural Grammy appearance in 1961, she garnered three nominations and clinched her sole Grammy in 1965 for Best Folk Recording, an honor bestowed upon her album An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba.

Makeba’s Grammy nominations were diverse, reflecting the range of her musical prowess. Her first Grammy nods in 1960 included Best New Artist, Best Performance-Folk for Miriam Makeba, and Best Vocal Performance, Album, Female for Miriam. In 1963, her powerful album The World Of Miriam Makeba earned her nominations in the categories of Best Vocal Performance, Female and Best Folk Recording.

Her subsequent Grammy nominations continued to showcase her musical versatility and global impact. Notable nods included Best Folk Recording for The World of Miriam Makeba (1963), The Voice of Africa (1964), and Makeba Sings (1965). Decades later, in 2000, she received a nomination for Best World Music Album for Homeland

2. Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM) (5 Grammy wins)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo

For the past 59 years, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM) has stood as a national treasure in South Africa, emerging as leaders in the world of music. The foundation of this iconic band traces back to a series of dreams experienced by Joseph Shabalala, the visionary leader of LBM, in 1964. In these dreams, Shabalala heard the melodies that would come to define the unique and soul-stirring sound of the group.

The turning point for Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s global prominence occurred in 1986 when they featured on Paul Simon’s Grammy Award-winning album “Graceland.” Since then, the ensemble has carved an illustrious four-decade history with the Grammy Awards, securing a remarkable 17 nominations and clinching five coveted statuettes.

Their Grammy victories include Best Traditional Folk Recording for Shaka Zulu in 1987 and Best Traditional World Music Album for both Raise Your Spirit Higher in 2004 and Illembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu in 2008. The accolades continued with Best World Music Album wins for Live: Singing For Peace Around The World in 2013 and Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2017.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Grammy journey is marked by exceptional contributions across diverse categories, including notable nominations for Best Recording For Children in 1990 and Best Children’s Album in 2017. With a commitment to promoting peace evident in nominations for Best Traditional Folk Album and Best Contemporary World Music Album, their versatile exploration of musical realms has solidified their place as a beacon of cultural richness and excellence in international music history.

3. Soweto Gospel Choir (3 Grammy wins)

Soweto Gospel Choir
Soweto Gospel Choir

Founded by two visionary choir directors, David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer, at the turn of the millennium in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, the Soweto Gospel Choir has evolved into a formidable ensemble with over 30 members. The choir’s international acclaim was catalyzed by their awe-inspiring performance at the first 46664 Concert for Nelson Mandela in 2003, where they shared the stage with luminaries such as The Eurythmics, The Corrs, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM), Bono, Beyoncé, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Sir Bob Geldof.

Despite being relatively unknown at the time, the choir’s participation in the Mandela concert served as a launchpad for their meteoric rise to global recognition. Since then, the Soweto Gospel Choir has not only become a symbol of South African musical excellence but has also garnered prestigious accolades, including six Grammy Award nominations and three victories.

The ensemble’s Grammy triumphs include the Best Traditional World Music Album category for Blessed in 2006 and African Spirit in 2007. Their musical prowess extended beyond traditional realms, leading to a victory in the Best Classical Crossover Album category for their contribution to Tin, Christopher: Calling All Dawns in 2010.

Beyond their wins, the Soweto Gospel Choir’s Grammy journey includes notable nominations. In 2008, they received recognition in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category for their exceptional Live At The Nelson Mandela Theatre recording. Further nods in the Best Traditional World Music Album category came in 2010 with Grace and in 2018 with Freedom in the Best World Music Album category.

4. Lebo M (Morake) (1 Grammy win)

Lebo M (Morake)
Lebo M (Morake)

Lebo M (Morake), a revered South African producer, composer, musician, and arranger, emerged as an iconic figure in the world of music, leaving an indelible mark on one of the most beloved animated franchises, The Lion King. Born and raised in Soweto, Johannesburg, during the apartheid era, Lebo M’s musical prowess and resilience came to the fore when he faced exile in 1979, finding a new home in Los Angeles, USA, where he resided for two decades until the dissolution of apartheid in the 1990s.

Lebo M’s most celebrated collaboration is with the legendary composer Hans Zimmer, and their work on the music for The Lion King catapulted him to international acclaim. This world-famous animated feature and its franchise, comprising TV series, movies, rides, and the Broadway Musical, bear the distinctive musical imprint of Lebo M’s genius.

Despite a singular Grammy nomination, Lebo M’s impact was monumental. In 1994, he clinched the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocals for Circle of Life, a pivotal song from The Lion King. This recognition underscored the depth of his contribution to the musical landscape and affirmed his ability to create compositions that resonate globally.

5. Trevor Rabin (1 Grammy win)

Trevor Rabin
Trevor Rabin

Renowned as a multifaceted South African musician, producer, singer-songwriter, film music composer, and arranger, Trevor Rabin embarked on an illustrious career that led him from London to his current residence in Los Angeles. At the age of 24, he made the pivotal move to London in 1978 and later relocated to Los Angeles in 1984, where his artistic journey continues to unfold.

Trevor Rabin’s musical brilliance has left an indelible mark on iconic motion pictures, including Coach Carter, Bad Boys II, and Gone In 60 Seconds. His distinguished career has earned him six Grammy nominations, with a notable win in 1984 in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the evocative composition Cinema.

The Grammy recognition for Rabin extended across various categories, showcasing the breadth of his musical talent. His nominations included Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the chart-topping hit Owner of a Lonely Heart (1984) and the albums 90125 (1984) and Big Generator (1987). In 1984, Rabin’s skills in vocal arrangement were acknowledged with a nomination for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for the captivating track Leave It.

Furthermore, his impact on the visual realm earned him a nomination for Best Music Video, Long Form for 90125 Live in 1986, highlighting his ability to craft captivating musical experiences both in sound and visuals.

6. Phil Ramone (14 Grammy wins)

Phil Ramone
Phil Ramone

Phil Ramone, prominent in the realms of music production, engineering, songwriting, and performance, made history with his distinctive style and unparalleled contributions. Born in South Africa and raised in New York, Ramone became a kingmaker, revitalizing the careers of legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett, and Ray Charles, while also producing chart-topping hits for industry giants like Madonna, George Michael, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and Natalie Cole.

Ramone’s distinctive orchestral arrangements and innovative production techniques propelled him to international stardom, earning him induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and an astounding 39 Grammy nominations over a prolific career spanning six decades. His prowess garnered him 17 Grammy wins, including three victories in the prestigious Album of the Year category.

Phil Ramone’s Grammy triumphs unfolded across a diverse array of categories and years, showcasing his versatility and enduring impact on the music industry. His wins include Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical for Getz/Gilberto (1964), Trustees Award: Distinguished Engineering Award (1965), Best Score From an Original Cast Show Album for Promises, Promises (1969), and Record of the Year for Just The Way You Are (1978).

Notably, Ramone secured victories in the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category (1980) and Best Surround Sound Album for Genius Loves Company (2004), among others. His Grammy journey also saw recognition for his contributions to original soundtracks, with wins for Flashdance (1983) and a Technical Grammy Award in 2005.

The maestro’s remaining Grammy nominations spanned an impressive range, including nods for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical, Album of the Year, Best Score from the Original Cast Show Album, Best Cast Show Album, and Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media.

7. Dave Matthews (2 Grammy wins)

Dave Matthews (Medium)
Dave Matthews (Medium)

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1967, Dave Matthews’ journey from avoiding conscription to forming the highly successful Dave Matthews Band (DMB) in the USA has become a musical odyssey. Matthews, who later became a global music icon, initially immigrated to New York at 19 to evade compulsory conscription in South Africa and eventually settled in Virginia, where DMB was born.

The Dave Matthews Band stands as one of the most successful touring acts in music history, amassing over $700 million in ticket sales. Matthews, both individually and as part of DMB, boasts two Grammy wins out of 16 nominations, showcasing his enduring impact on the music industry.

His Grammy victories include Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for So Much To Say (1997) and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for Gravedigger (2004). Matthews’ remaining Grammy nominations span various categories, illustrating the breadth of his musical prowess.

The nominations include Best Music Video, Short Form, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for What Would You Say (1995), Best Rock Song for Too Much (1996) and Crash Into Me (1997), as well as Best Rock Album for Crash (1996), Before These Crowded Streets (1998), and Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (2009).

Matthews continued to receive recognition in categories such as Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for Love Of My Life (1999), Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for Where Are You Going (2002), and an Album of the Year nomination for Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (2009).

His diverse Grammy journey also includes nods for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for Crash Into Me (1997), Crush (1998), and The Space Between (2001), as well as a Best Rock Instrumental Performance nomination for Kundalini Bonfire (2010).

8. Wouter Kellerman (2), Zakes Bantwini (1) and Nomcebo Zikode (1)

Wouter Kellerman, Nomcebo and Zakes Bantwini
Wouter Kellerman, Nomcebo and Zakes Bantwini

Wouter Kellerman, the accomplished South African flautist, composer, and producer hailing from Johannesburg, has left an indelible mark on the world of music with his diverse and captivating sounds. Active in the industry since 1981, Kellerman’s musical expertise spans Jazz, Classical, and South African ethnic and urban genres, showcasing his versatility.

With ten solo studio albums to his name, Kellerman’s notable achievements include the chart-topping success of Winds of Samsara (2014), which claimed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard New Age Chart. His album Love Language (2015) not only secured the No. 2 position on the Billboard New Age Chart but also clinched the No. 1 spot on the Billboard World Albums chart.

Kellerman’s Grammy journey has been equally impressive, earning him three nominations and one coveted win: Best New Age Album (2014), Winds of Samsara, while Best Global Music Performance (2023), Bayethe with Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode. His Grammy nominations include Best Contemporary Instrumental Album (2015), Love Language and Best New Age Album (2022), Pangea.

8. Eddie Kramer

Eddie Kramer
Eddie Kramer (Medium)

Eddie Kramer, born as Edwin in the vibrant city of Cape Town, South Africa, embarked on a musical journey that would lead him to become one of the most revered recording engineers and producers in the world. In 1961, he ventured to London, England, where he immersed himself in the dynamic realm of recording studios, setting the stage for a career that would leave an indelible mark on the music industry.

While Kramer is widely acclaimed for his groundbreaking work with the legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix, his influence extends far beyond, touching the sonic landscapes of multiple internationally recognized superstars. The Beatles, Carlos Santana, The Rolling Stones, KISS, and Led Zeppelin all bear the sonic imprint of Kramer’s exceptional engineering skills.

Despite not having won a Grammy in his own name, Kramer’s contribution to Grammy-winning albums and songs stands as a testament to his unparalleled expertise. Some notable Grammy victories that feature Kramer’s engineering prowess include Best Historical Album (2004) for Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey, Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (2002) for The Game of Love (Carlos Santana and Michelle Branch) and Best Long Form Music Video (1999) for Band of Gypsies (Jimi Hendrix).

9. Black Coffee (1 Grammy win)

Black Coffee Grammy Award
Black Coffee with his first Grammy Award

Acclaimed producer, recording artist, DJ, and musician, Black Coffee, traces his roots back to Umlazi, Kwa-Zulu Natal, where he was born on March 11, 1976. A student of Jazz at Technikon Natal, now known as the Durban University of Technology, his musical journey took flight in 1994 as he began his career as a backing vocalist for Madala Kunene during South Africa’s historic transition to democracy.

Emerging as a prominent figure in the country’s dance scene, Black Coffee gained recognition after being selected as one of two participants for the Red Bull Music Academy in 2004. With nine studio albums under his belt, he has not only shaped the South African music landscape but has garnered international acclaim.

His list of achievements includes 8 South African Music Awards (SAMAs), 2 Metro FM awards, and a BET award in 2016. In 2021, Black Coffee released Subconsciously, a milestone in his discography. The album not only showcased his musical prowess but also made history at the 64th annual Grammy Awards in 2022.

Subconsciously not only earned a nomination but secured a monumental win for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the Grammy Awards. This victory marked a historic moment for South Africa, as it was the first time the country received a nomination in this category.

10. Tyla (1 Grammy win)

Tyla Grammy award

South African singer Tyla Laura Seethal, who is best known as Tyla, is the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Best African Music Performance. The new category debuted at the 66th Grammy Awards in 2024, with Olamide, Asake, Davido, Ayra Starr, and Burna Boy as nominees. On winning the award on February 4, 2024, Tyla said, “I never thought I’d say I won a Grammy at 22 years old.”

In Conclusion:

Beyond celebrated Grammy winners, South African artists like Hugh Masekela, Jonathan Butler, Johnny Clegg, Brenton Brown, Neville Diedericks, and Kevin Shirley have left an indelible mark with Grammy nominations. Notable mentions include Trevor Noah’s historic 2020 nomination in the “Best Comedy Album” category, a first for South Africa.

These artists contribute to South Africa’s rich Grammy legacy with over 146 nominations and 42 victories, spanning diverse categories. The journey reflects that success, as demonstrated by dedication and hard work, knows no bounds. South Africa’s Grammy narrative serves as an inspiring testament to the limitless possibilities when talent meets perseverance on the global stage.

 

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