The SAMA23 Lifetime Achievement honourees represent a potpourri of sounds that influenced generations. They are innovators and creative geniuses who for decades blazed the trail in different genres.

We are proud to announce that Rebecca Malope, the Queen of Gospel, will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award this year. She is a multiple SAMA winner and a music force to be reckoned with in South Africa. Her powerful voice has taken her all over the African continent, the US and Europe filling up venues wherever she performed.

Don Laka is also in line to take home a Lifetime Achievement gong. The pioneer of kwaai-jazz who started off in the trenches of jazz and dabbled with the influences of kwaito is a revered pianist and a record label co-owner. He is also a SAMA winner and a respected figure in the local music industry. Bra Don, as he is known, defined a sound for generations and helped produce stars through his work.

A voice that defined black music of the 1970s and 1980s, Babsy Mlangeni will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Mlangeni never let his condition as a blind musician to condemn him. His entertaining songs with compelling messages propelled his name into the stratosphere of fame.

Remarked RiSA CEO Nhlanhla Sibisi: “We as the SAMA organisers value these honours highly. We believe that our veteran who served the industry with unmatched dedication and gave us timeless music should never be forgotten by history, as such we look forward to etching the names of Rebecca Malope, Don Laka and Babsy Mlangeni in our presitigious list of lifetime achievers. We say well done on such colourful careers and let this be a token of our appreciation of your talent as a nation.”

 Dr Rebecca Malope

Few artists occupy the high firmament that Rebecca Malope enjoys in the South African music scene. She has released 36 chart breaking albums, sold millions of copies, won countless music awards, honoured by institutions of higher learning and above all is respected by her peers and revered by legions of her fans.

From the moment she entered and won “Shell Road To Fame”, Malope’s name was in the stars. Her superb collaboration with Sizwe Zako, Vuyo Mokoena and Jabu Nkabinde weaned her off bubblegum music and instead spurned gospel anthems that inspired generations.   Her music has given birth to new believers, entrenched faith in those who started to doubt themselves and brought back hundreds from their suicide attempts. Malope, through her immense talent and voice has comforted many women who couldn’t bear children, struggling to support their families or were in abusive relationships. And many more men and women whose hearts have been broken by the death or loss of their loved ones have found strength in the spiritual booster that is her music.

Rebecca’s music indeed reaches people from all walks of life and from all over the world. Some of her performing successes include: 

•             singing at Nelson Mandela’s Presidential inauguration in 1994;

•             performing with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1994; 

•             playing the Pretoria State Theatre in 1995; 

•             packing out the Natal Playhouse Opera Theatre in November 1997;

•             igniting the stage at a Gospel festival in Washington DC in 1997, 

•             and performing in countries like Israel (where she made history by travelling to Israel where a CCV TV crew shot a 52-minute Easter special for national broadcast on Good Friday, 15 April 1995), the UK, America and many African countries.

Despite all of these tremendous accomplishments and accolades, heartaches and struggles, Rebecca refuses to forget her roots and her biggest mentor, her Lord. And she’s always pushing herself forward – in particular honing her songwriting talent. Since she joined SAMRO Rebecca has notified more than 70 songs! She is the original gospel superstar who performs mostly new compositions and her unique style of singing has been imitated by many young artists and continues to be an inspiration to wannabe singers.

Her TV show on SABC2 unearths new talent on a weekly basis. While her role as a judge in the South African version of the international television show “Clash of the Choirs” showcases her musical expertise and helps unearth the country’s next big choral group. She is the big sister whose wisdom and words of encouragement helps fuel the ambitions of the next crop of gospel stars.  

She is not called the Queen of Gospel for nothing. Her reach and appeal remains strong over the years and she steadfastly keeps up the standards and exploring new terrain with her music.   Malope’s talent is not only enjoyed and recognised in South Africa but across the continent and the world. She has performed in the USA, United Kingdom, Paris, Germany, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Ghana and Angola to name a few.   She has a few firsts to her name. Chief of which is being the first black artist and woman to perform at the State Theatre in Pretoria after the unbanning of apartheid. Most recently she is the first South African artist to have a song (Uthando Lwam’) included in the American Christian Churches hymnbook. She has been an ambassador for Cell C, Sunlight Soap and a brand of Korean pots.  

Not bad for a little girl from a rural township called Lekazi near the Kruger National Park, who went to school on an empty stomach and without shoes, didn’t finish school and lived on the streets. She hiked 400km from home to Evaton in Gauteng and pursued her dream. Hers is a story of resilience, determination and chutzpah. A true reminder of Phillipians 4:13 which says “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me”  Currently, you can see her in action on your television screens every Sunday on SABC 2’s ‘It’s Gospel Time” and Mzansi Magic’s “Clash Of The Choirs”.    Rebecca Malope, Sis Ribs, Doctor Malope is a legend in her own lifetime. She is a national treasure to be cherished. Thirty years of committed service to the music industry and many SA Music Awards Crown Gospel Music Awards, MetroFM Music Awards, Kora All Africa Music Awards later. Music trends will come and go, and styles will change, but Malope will remain the rock of ages! 

2016 marked Dr Rebecca Malope’s 30th year in the music industry.  She was nominated for Best Female Spiritual Artist at the Kora Awards 2016.  She celebrated her 30th Anniversary in the UK in Birmingham on the 7th of May 2016.  She held a 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert at Carnival City Big Top Arena on the 3rd of December 2016 where she told her life story though a musical.  She is the current Ariel Washing Powder Ambassador.

Don Laka

(21 Sep, 2016 – Johannesburg) 2016 marks a crescendo of 44-years of artistic discovery and reinvention for one of South Africa’s musical icons, Don Laka. Laka, through Sony Music Entertainment Africa, will release his first career spanning ‘Best Of’ compilation album – curated by the artist himself – “The Essential DON LAKA” on 21 October, 2016.

The Essential DON LAKA features twenty-six of Don’s renowned compositions – opening with his tracks lifted from early albums released while originally signed to Sony Music in the mid-1990s, as well as the best repertoire taken from his later independent releases with his own label Bokone Music. 

Known as the father of “Kwaai Jazz” – a genre Don defines as an “eclectic fusion of classical, SA traditional & contemporary” – Don Laka’s discography is impressive. His early albums Destiny, Pyramid & Supernova are acclaimed as classics in the South African jazz canon & reveal Laka’s prowess as a composer, pianist, arranger and producer.

Amidst the medley of voices that are unique to South Africa, Laka’s is amplified by a rebellious streak that has seen him strike a chord with the young and not so young, building the “Kwaai-Jazz” brand into a uniquely South African experience that has enthralled enthusiasts worldwide.

When selecting the tracks that made the final cut onto “The Essential” double album, Laka identified simplicity as one of the defining aspects. He aptly states: “I have taken the ‘scary’ out of jazz and made it accessible to everyone.”

Like Chopin who was influenced by female voices, Mr Laka’s compositions & notably his solos are also influenced by those giant South African Mbaqanga voices: “I feel I have managed to capture the spirit of South African singers like Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuka and Thandie Klaasen who’s vocal melodies are distinct,” says Don.

Don Laka – student, teacher, producer, artist, composer, engineer, and executive – continues to be an instrument to the evolution of the South African music industry. His multiplicity of skills is reflected in his works, complementing creativity with technique, achieving mastery of a vision unfolding.

Boasting six, multi-platinum albums under his belt as an artist, “The Essential DON LAKA” is an all-access-pass to the “soul of a man” dedicated to a life of music.

 Babsy Mlangeni

The never –say die artist, father and entrepreneur, was born on the 24th February 1943 in Soweto and attended the Athlone School for the Blind in Cape Town. It was while at Athlone that took up the guitar as the school encouraged students to learn to play different instruments. This led to the decision to form the All Rounders when they left school. Due to the lack of work for blind people, they brought on other blind and sighted musicians including KoloiLebona, John Mothuping, Micky Lebona, ArcchieKgwadi and Simon Falatsi.

The All Rounders concentrated with performing at township schools and taught pupils about Brail reading, how blind people read time, and the implication of the white stick they carry. The exercise was a commercial success as it allowed the blind group members to quit their jobs as switchboard operators. When the group subsequently released “SalaEmma” which was a monster hit, they brought sighted musicians on board such as Moss Tau, Clive Ncapayi and Peter Sexwale.

As a singer, guitarist, composer an entrepreneur Babsy Mlangeni has over a period of four decades industry experience, and has ridden the crest of success despite his blindness, and the turbulent apartheid that restricted creative expression.

His musical journey was not only taxing creatively, emotionally and economically, it also created precedents which laid a solid foundation for latter-day musos. Not only did he mesmerize the industry and invariably the country with his music, he also created a legacy with his first blockbuster “Sala Emma” a soothing Sotho ballad that still leaves sentimentalists swooning.

Even though the song sold in excess of 100 000 units at the last count in 1968, Babsy and his All Rounder’s band never got paid any royalties.  This was at a time when record companies did not have Black producers.  Instead, they had what they called talent scout, many of whom defrauded artists including mbaqanga king Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde and many others. This did not impinge on his super star status. He became one of the first black artists to be mobbed wherever he went. The irony is that where modern day artists need supporting acts to fill indoor venues and stadiums, Babsy Mlangeni and the All Rounder’s used to fill them without any supporting acts.

Like many others musicians, Babsy Mlangeni and the All Rounder’s had a naively signed a five-year contract with RPM. Little did they know that they in fact signed their rights away? Not prepared to make another recording for RPM, Babsy Mlangeni and his group wallowed in limbo. To keep the home fires burning, they collaborated with the late David Thekwane’s the Movers, highly successful pop group. After touring and performing with the Movers, they recorded a single, “Have faith in me” in English even though this was against the law to do so. One of their other songs was entitled, “Get Ready”, an instrumental which was shunned by the SABC for its subliminal political message. In those days, artists were not allowed to mix Sotho & Zulu in one song

When the group found a new recording company in Clive Calder Productions (CCP), they signed as Babsy Mlangeni since the group All Rounder’s belonged to RPM. The positive side of the coin is that this contributed to the massive building and promotion of the Babsy Mlangeni brand.

What followed was a roller-coaster of hits that catapulted the Babsy Mlangeni brand to unprecedented heights. They had hit after hit dominating the industry with songs such as “Thekene”, “Mina Ngiyaphila”, “Thola makoti”, “Motho keo”, “Toro yaka “, Honale botho ba nkutlwisang bohloko”, Ayithethi lento”, “ Bua nnte”, “Tshwara jwalo kgaitsedi”, “Musuku khuthuza”, “ Uthandaze”, “Mapule” and many others.

Their stay with CCP records from 1974 to 1979 was not only satisfying creatively; it also brought them commercial success. When Clive Calder sold CCP records to EMI Records, he first secured Babsy Mlangeni and Koloi Lebona, another blind genius, a press and Distribution Deal. This allowed them to start the Black Artists Management (BAM), the first Black owned recording company.

With office in central Johannesburg, BAM created another wave with the release of music of the Black Five, an Afro-pop group from Sebokeng in Vereeniging and highly successful “Tau ya matshega” from Lesotho who were second only to Babsy Mlangeni in terms of sales. While the company had another artist such as Jappie Lebona, Monty Leo, a Zion Christian Church and other balladeer, the late Sammy Brown, their greatest milestone was the first release of Jonathan Butler’s hugely successful “7th Avenue” album. The Cape Town born Butler, a guitarist and singer, went on to become a recording giant in the competitive US music scene

With apartheid vigorously promoting ethnicity, many of Babsy’s albums had to be released in both Sotho and Nguni languages. However distasteful this was, it strengthened Babsy’s appeal across the length and the breadth of South Africa. The group also performed in SADC countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. This was at a time when Black musicians were paid R5 as session fee while Whites musicians were given R70.00.

Although the SADC’s television and radio channels were pivotal for promoting artists, Babsy had the guts to refuse when asked to be part of the strategy by government to promote ethnicity. What with government decreeing that Black musicians could not entertain whites nor share the stage with White musicians or bands.

The Babsy Mlangeni music machine grew in its appeal with the musician garnering more than 25 Gold Discs and several music awards, some by the public broadcaster. Although Babsy and the All Rounder’s could pack shows on their own, they did share the stage with many artists other than the Movers. These include Mparanyana, Jonathan Butler, Richards Jon Smith, Soul Brothers, Kori Moraba, Harare, the Black Five the list is endless

Babsy Mlangeni in 2012 among the awards he has received he was honoured with a Chancellors Awards from the University on North West’s Mafikeng campus South Africa. The Chancellors Medal is awarded to people who have shown exceptional achievement of non-academic nature or who have made exceptional contributions on other spheres of life such as music. He was also been honoured for his association with the value of human rights, equality, social awareness as well as his social justice and education through music. 

Wanting to secure his future, Babsy decided in 1980 to go into business. He built a supermarket and a night club called Club 2000 in Tladi, Soweto. Once more he created another first by being the first black businessman to be given a liquor licence by the apartheid government. This was at the time when apartheid rulers had lived. This involved hostel dwellers who are normally Zulu speaking and the township residents. Unfortunately, Babsy’s businesses were situated next to the Mapetla hostel which had a negative impact on his business.

Even though his business collapsed as a result of the political violence, there is no doubt that his music and success as a blind singer inspired many people, especially those who are disable and other blind musician such as Steve Kekana and Lazarus Khagudi.

As political climate was changing for the better in 1990, Babsy embraced the Lord Jesus Christ joining the hugely popular International Pentecostal Holiness Church where he worked with the church youth choir and recorded them with different record companies. It was not surprising when he released two gospel albums with BMG Records. The albums sold well within the hugely supported IPHC which has support from Christians from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana.

His musical expertise was also sought by the African National Congress (ANC) which resulted in him working at the movement’s Shell House headquarters in Johannesburg.

He collaborated with the late Peter Mokaba, former ANC youth League, writing songs about voter education intending to empower the masses for the historic 1994 April 27 elections. Towards the end of 1994 Babsy Mlangeni met with Lungi Daweti who worked at the multi-media production house known as Centre for Democratic Trust. The production house which was based A Cosatu house, Braamfontein, Johannesburg and belonged to the ANC-COSATU-SACP tripartite alliance. The project was initiated by President Nelson Mandela.

In 1995 Babsy Mlangeni and his long time music companion produced a three voter education music CDs that were presented, and given blessing by the ANC election organising committee representatives, among were Charles Nqakula, Michael Sachs, Sam Shilowa, Smuts Ngonyama, and several other high profile leaders of the tripartite alliance.

With his heart rooted in music, he joined Peter Snyman’s No Nonsense Record Company. He produced the debut gospel offering by Godfrey Mathebula, also blind, before releasing his own album titled, “Uthembini” which also was also recorded in Sotho, “o Tshepileng”

In 2001 Clive Calder, his old mentor, was eager to know whether Babsy‘s career was still blossoming. Blind producer Koloi Lebona, a long standing friend of his was Calder’s South Africa representative for Zomba Records. Wanting to bolster Babsy’s career, Calder sponsored him to release an album. The Album was release and distributed by Jive Label, an international label owned by Calder and had international stars such as R.Kelly. Unfortunately for Babsy Calder sod his Zomba Records to BMG and his new release simply vanished.

Babsy Mlangeni, Koloi Lebona and John Mothuping decided to form an organisation which is sole aim was to harness and record talent within the disabled community the organisation was called South African Blind Musician Association (SADMA)

Wanting to hold onto the celebration day concert for disable people, Babsy decided to form a Jozi Entertainment with view of promoting musicians with disabilities which resulted in his company promoting the concert for disabled artist. The Directors of the company are Lawrence Mlangeni and M Khumalo. Jozi Entertainment released Babsy Mlangeni’s latest album titled “A wukho umsebenzi”

Babsy Mlangeni among the artists he has shared stage with all African Artist including the likes of international Keith Sweat King Kong and the tutu band, Oliver Mtukudzi.  Babsy has new album called BA KAE which is available in stores.