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Ladysmith Black Mambazo Rediscovers Idyllic Past

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Tuesday March 22, 2011

from The Philadelphia Tribune
By Bobbi Booker

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Rediscovers Idyllic Past

Since their earliest recordings, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has maintained a respect and a reverence for their past. The centuries-old story of their homeland — sometimes joyous, sometimes troubled, but always rich and exhilarating — has been at the very foundation of this vocal group since its very beginning. Ladysmith’s international image was boosted after their best-selling collaboration with Paul Simon for his 1986 “Graceland” album. The group of South African musicians helped open the word’s eyes to their cullture, and the historic changes of their homeland.

Yet there’s a quieter, more personal past shared by the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo — a time of youth and innocence, when the world consisted of nothing more than the hills and open fields of their parents’ farms in Zulu country. Before the stage performances, before the collaborations with other artists, before the Grammy awards, before all of that and so much more, the only songs these children knew were the traditional folk tunes handed down to them by their parents, their grandparents and the countless generations that preceded them. Their new recording,”Songs From A Zulu Farm (Razor & Tie),” is a return to the idyllic world in which they once lived in their youth. Long-standing member Albert Mazibuko says this is their most personal work to date. Included among the 16 tracks is “Old McDonald … Zulu Style,” a South African rendition of the well known children’s song, “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” This original classic is reworked in ways never before imagined as it is piped through the language and culture of the Zulu people.

“This was an album that made us laugh a lot while we were doing it,” said Mazibuko. “Even in the studio, there was no pressure like there usually is when you’re doing music in the studio, so we could focus and listen to your feleings. Doing this kind of music and these songs it was always bringing this joy like when you were a kid. You know, you would be amazed even on stage singing these songs because there is so much laughter. It brings that kind of innocence where you don’t worry about anything and you just enjoy yourself.”

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