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Mbulu, Letta (South Africa)  
Letta Mbulu © Steve Gordon

Letta was born and raised in Soweto. There, her musical talents became widely recognised when, at an early age, she joined the then famous African Jazz and Variety company. She then went on to receive further acclaim as a member of the prestigious Union of South African Artists.

These beginnings were to prove invaluable in her musical development as she flourished in an environment that exposed her to influences that encompassed not only her traditional folk music, but also the ever-growing contemporary sounds of urban South Africa, the Brazilians Bossanova and American jazz and blues.

King Kong
Still in her teens, Letta began touring outside of Africa with the musical "King Kong" which ran for a year in England following a highly successful two year run in South Africa. When the tour ended, she returned to South Africa but soon the policies of Apartheid were to force her to leave her native land for the U.S.A.

Her first major engagement in America was at the Village Gate in New York City where she began to win hearts of the American public. As a result of the outstanding critical acclaim she won at the Village Gate, she was invited to tour with the late alto saxophone virtuoso, Cannonball Adderley. After that she joined forces with Harry Belafonte in what was to become a lasting and rewarding musical relationship which took them on several world tours.

Genre: African, mbaqanga, soul
Letta then married another of South Africa's finest talents, Caiphus Semenya, whom she had met whilst touring with "King Kong".

She has been heard by millions chanting the opening title theme and most of the African music in "Roots" Part I and II, the highest rated television show of its kind. For this performance Quincy Jones was prompted to write "Letta is a roots lady, projecting a sophistication and warmth which stirs hope for attaining pure love, beauty and unity in the world. Letta's music is simply too beautiful to miss!" Letta received the coveted Emmy Award for her performance on Roots and a gold record for the soundtrack.

Letta's screen credits include "A Warm December" with Sidney Pottier and the Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones production of "The Colour Purple". She also narrated "You struck a Rock", a documentary film that focused on the role of women in South Africa. Further more, she was the woman's voice on Michael Jackson's song "Liberian Girl" off the "Bad" album.

Letta was one of the founding members of South African Artists United (SAAU), a non-sectarian, non-partisan and non-profit organization formed in 1986. In January 1987, the organization launched a musical with a political and historical theme called "Buwa", with Letta playing a leading role. This show toured throughout Africa to critical acclaim until November 1988. To her South African fans, Letta has become a legend in her own time. She has never released an album that has failed to achieve platinum status (50,000 units) and has had a string of smash hits that include "Maru a pula", "I need your love", "Buza", "Everybody sign along" and many others.

Unity '91
On their initial return to the country, Letta and Caiphus performed in the Unity '91 Festival. This marked their first time they had shared a stage with their fellow musicians on home soil since exile. She is today an accomplished international artist that has graced the stages of the world and can bring an audience to its feet with her incredible range and control. Her extraordinary performances in concerts are the result of her life experiences which span several continents and cultures. Her interaction with life provides the momentum for a fresh musical approach which is African and yet, international, sophisticated and yet contemporary, percussive and ever so melodic.

The vocal style is clearly her own, "This music, our music", she says, "expresses hope, joy and determination; an unconquerable spirit. Hope for the future because we know it belongs to us." Though she has been away from South Africa for twenty-six long years, she has not lost her roots or that soulful expression which is so distinctively Letta. There is a certain purity to her music that cannot be, and never will be denied.

Not Yet Uhuru
After a break of nine years, March 1992 marked the long-awaited release of a new album by the remarkable Letta Mbulu. Entitled "NOT YET UHURU", the album was Letta's very first to be recorded on South Africa soil. It was arranged and produced by her multi-talented husband Caiphus Semenya, who also composed most of the material.

Having returned to South Africa after twenty-six years in exile, the couple greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with South Africa's finest musicians. The finished product is a superb blend of international experience and home-grown talent.

Letta's unforgettable voice sends a warm and positive message to all South Africans through a collection of songs that will appeal to both the young and the not so young. The music bridges the racial divide and calls for peace and unity throughout the land.

Contact Details:

Chaks Entertainment & Promotions
tel +27 - 11 - 331 3077
  Recordings : Mbulu, Letta
Culani Nami

Letta Mbulu - Culani Nami

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