Letta Mbulu

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Letta Mbulu
Born (1942-08-23) 23 August 1942 (age 77)
Soweto, South Africa
GenresJazz, world
Years active1965–present
LabelsCapitol, Chisa, Fantasy, A&M

Letta Mbulu (born 23 August 1942) is a South African jazz singer who has been active since the 1960s.


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,[1] — 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,[1] 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,[2] 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."[2]

She is the founding member of the South African Artists United (SAAU) an organisation that was established in 1986.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Mbulu is married to musician Caiphus Semenya.[4]



  • Letta Mbulu Sings (Capitol, 1967)
  • Free Soul (Capitol, 1968)
  • Letta (Chisa, 1970)
  • Naturally (Fantasy, 1972)
  • There's Music in the Air (A&M, 1976)
  • Letta (A&M, 1977)
  • Letta Mbulu - Gold (A&M, 1978)
  • Letta Mbulu - Sweet juju (Morning, 1985)
  • The Best of Letta & Caiphus (Columbia, 1996)
  • Greatest Hits (Columbia, 1999)
  • Letta Mbulu Sings/Free Soul (Stateside, 2005)
  • Culani Nami (Sony, 2007)

With Quincy Jones


  1. ^ a b Douglas Payne, "Letta Mbulu", douglaspayne.com.
  2. ^ a b Craig Harris, Artist Biography, AllMusic.
  3. ^ Rajgopaul, Jeeva (26 August 2011). "Letta Mbulu". South African History Online. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Semenya, Caiphus (South Africa)". music.org.za. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  5. ^ Biography by Doug Payne
  6. ^ List of recipients 2009

External links[edit]