Music is My Life tells the story of South African musician, the late Joseph Shabalala, who rose to international fame with his band Ladysmith Black Mambazo after contributing to Paul Simon’s massively successful Graceland album. Bathed in Ladysmith’s powerful music, the documentary covers the full breadth of the singer’s life, from his early years in rural South Africa to the height of Shabalala’s global success to his passing in 2020, at the age of 79.
Along with footage from the Graceland recording sessions, the film introduces us to many of the luminaries who worked alongside Shabalala, including Dolly Parton and stars like Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. The film also documents the complex history of Isicathamiya music – the musical idiom whose boundaries he helped to expand – in terms of the political and musical forces that helped to form it.
Filmed over three years, Music is my Life gives us extraordinary access to Shabalala’s creative process. Locating his music at the heart of the South African experience as well as in its physical heartlands, Music is my Life is an engaging tribute to one of the country’s most distinct musical forms and the man with the beautifully resonant voice who made it famous.
Director: Mpumi “Supa” Mbele
Length: 1hr 30mins
Date: 8th October 2022 (broadcasting on Sky Arts)
- World Premiere, Encounters South African International Documentary Festival (2022)
- Special Mention, Durban International Film Festival