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Sun, 08.23.1942

Letta Mbulu, Singer born

Letta Mbulu

*Letta Mbulu was born on this date in 1942. She is a Black South African jazz singer. 

Born and raised in Soweto, South Africa, she has been active as a singer since the 1960s. While still a teenager, she toured with the musical King Kong but left for the United States in 1965 due to Apartheid.   In New York City, she connected with other South African exiles, including Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Jonas Gwangwa, and went on to work with Cannonball Adderley, David Axelrod, and Harry Belafonte.  

On-screen, her singing can also be heard in Roots, The Color Purple (1985), and the 1973 film A Warm December, and she was a guest on a Season 6 episode of Soul Train. Mbulu also provided the Swahili chant in Michael Jackson's single, "Liberian Girl." Producer Quincy Jones has said of her: "Mbulu is the roots lady, projecting a sophistication and warmth which stirs hope for attaining pure love, beauty, and unity in the world." 

She is the founding member of the South African Artists United (SAAU) organization established in 1986. Mbulu is married to musician Caiphus Semenya. Her main musical influences became folk, American Jazz, and Brazilian music.  

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