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Friday, February 18, 2011

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

My son, James, poses with members of the group.
                                             LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
                                                  © Lydia Lowe 2/15/2011

     This past Tuesday evening I attended a show at The Stiefel Theatre where “Ladysmith Black Mambazo” was performing.  This group is from South Africa and they sing a cappella. 

     I didn’t know what to expect.  I had never heard of this group before and seeing a stage with nine microphones and no instruments is unusual.  The group took the stage and then the music began.  The group sings in a language other than English, I believe it’s Zulu, although they did sing one of their songs in English.  They introduced each song and explained what the song was about before singing it, which was very helpful.

     Music truly is a language that everyone can understand.  Even though I didn’t understand the words, I really enjoyed the rhythms of their voices and the beats played out with their hands and feet.  Their antics on stage brought laughter to the audience and truly reflected that though we may be bound by different cultures, regions, and ethnicity we are all one people, we are all the same.

     The name “Ladysmith Black Mambazo” came from a variety of sources.  Ladysmith for the town in South Africa that the group is from; Black which is in honor of the ox which is the strongest of all the animals; and Mambazo which means axe.  This group has been together since the 1960’s when the leader, Joseph Shambala first conceived the idea of a group that would spread the message of Peace, Love, and Harmony, mirroring the same sentiments that were also happening with music here in the United States.

     I found out later that this group has done a wide variety of well-known projects with well known people.  It’s within the realm of possibility that every person in the United States has heard their music in one form or another; as background music in movies and videos (Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America”, “The Lion King”, and Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” video); in commercials (Life Savers candy);  as well as with Paul Simon on Sesame Street or performing with Stevie Wonder, Natalie Merchant or Taj Mahal, to name a few.

     Not everyone will enjoy their concert performance.  If you are interested in the type of music that they sing or if you are open to new musical styles than this is the concert for you.  It is a unique and different sound that will not appeal to everyone in a concert type setting even as their music is widely known in other forms which are more listener friendly, as stated above. 

     I really enjoyed the concert and would recommend going to a venue to take in the uniqueness of the experience.  “Ladysmith Black Mambazo” is a show worth going too.  Catch it when it comes to your city.

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