Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 7:30PM at Emelin Theatre
“It isn’t merely the grace and power of their dancing or the beauty of their singing that rivets the attention, but the sheer joy and love that emanates from their being.” — Paul Simon
The group was founded in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala, a teenage farm boy living just outside the small town of Ladysmith, in the province of KwaZulu Natal. A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract, the beginning of an ambitious recording career that currently includes more than seventy albums, earning nineteen GRAMMY Award nominations and five GRAMMY Award wins. When Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, he called on Ladysmith Black Mambazo to join him in Norway to perform at the ceremony. Mandela called the group South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the world. It is a moniker the group members hold close to their hearts.
The group sings from a traditional music called Isicathamiya (Is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa. It was there that black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, Melissa Etheridge, and many others. They have provided music for many movies, have appeared on Broadway where they were nominated for a Tony Award and even had a documentary film, titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, the Story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, nominated for an Academy Award.