In 2013, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – led by founder and leader Joseph Shabalala –celebrates over fifty years of joyous and uplifting music that marries the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native South African musical traditions tothe sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music.
Assembled in the early 1960s in South Africa by Shabalala – then a young farmboy turned factory worker – the group took the name Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Ladysmith being the name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black being a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo being the Zulu word for axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Their collective voices were so tight and their harmonies so polished that they were eventually banned from competitions – although they were welcome to participate strictly as entertainers.
A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract – the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than fifty recordings. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated Black Mambazo’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his Graceland album – a landmark 1986 recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. A year later, Simon produced Black Mambazo’s first U.S. release, Shaka Zulu, which won a Grammy Award in 1988. Since then, the group has been awarded two more Grammy Awards and has been nominated a total of fifteen times.
A film documentary titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, the story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award. The Doudna Fine Arts Center will be showing the documentary on the evening of the performance. The screening begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs as an introduction to LBM's performance. You must have a concert ticket to be admitted to the documentary screening.
This performance is supported by the EIU Department of Africana Studies and the International Center for Global Diversity