Monday March 28, 2011
As a group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will celebrate their 45th anniversary in 2011, no small feat for a group that has stood the test of time.
Upholding the traditional roots of their native South Africa since their formation, the group has never faltered or wavered in delivering powerful a capella music with a message.
Steadfast in their determination to be recognized, the group was banned from vocal competition in the 1960’s because of their dominance. And, though they would sign their first record contract in 1970, it wasn’t until the groups’ collaboration with Paul Simon on his seminal Graceland album in 1986 that they received well deserved worldwide recognition.
Since then, the group has won three Grammy awards, worked with countless artists of varying genres, and most recently, released an album dedicated to the traditions of their South African youth. The album, Songs From a Zulu Farm, finds the group still full of life and energy.
I caught up with 42 year veteran of the group Albert Mazibuko during the group’s recent string of local shows; two in Annapolis on the 1st and 8th, and one at George Washington University on the 10th.
You’re one of the longest tenured members in the group. Could you describe some of the changes you’ve seen the group go through during your time as a member?
Some of the members have retired, and others have passed on. It’s two of us now in the group that started, Joseph (Shabalala), who founded it, and myself. And then other guys who joined the group, some in the 70’s, some newer.
What keeps you motivated after having performed for so many years?
First of all we are motivated by that we want to preserve this kind of music, and encouraged people to not to lose all of this beautiful talent that we have in South Africa. And after that, now, we are motivated by the people that like our music. People who come to us and say, “Oh, we enjoy your music.” And when we perform at shows, people will say, “We had a great time! Wow, this is wonderful!”
Some people will ask us to make music about this or that. It’s been so much from these people that has motivated us.
Are you still in contact with Paul Simon?
Yes, we are still in contact. In fact, almost every year we used to do a benefit show, but we didn’t do anything last year because we were busy at home for the World Cup. He used to talk over the phone with Joseph (Shabalala) all the time, and he always sends his regards.
You all have played at Rams Head in Annapolis in the past. Is it a special venue to you for any particular reasons or is it just another stop on the tour?
It’s a very…you know, special venue. You know every venue has a…. feeling. We’re excited to be there, especially this time performing our new songs from the Zulu Farm album. So it’s wonderful, we are so looking forward to it.
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