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REVIEW: Full house greets Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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Thursday January 19, 2012

from The Brownsville Herald

Full house greets Ladysmith Black Mambazo
By Travis Whitehead

Ladysmith Black Mambazo delivered a poignant, almost hypnotic performance Wednesday night before a packed auditorium.

The South African a cappella group performed at The Arts Center as part of this year’s Signature Series at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

Earlier Wednesday, some of the members gave a daytime presentation at Rivera High School as part of the Signature Series Education Outreach Program.

At the evening performance, the group wasted no time as members pranced onstage in their yellow-trimmed shirts and white shoes. Founder and leader Joseph Shabalala was dressed in a more colorful shirt that distinguished him from the others.

He stood before the eight other singers, then broke into a high-pitched falsetto while those behind him provided an enchanting backup that wove itself eloquently into the solo. Occasionally another voice would rise for a moment, perhaps a dashing whistle, a trill or a guttural growl.

The group performed songs from its Grammy-nominated album “Songs From A Zulu Farm.”

“These are songs that we used to sing as children growing up,” Shabalala told the audience. “They were sung by our grandparents, they were sung by our parents to us.”

The performance captivated the audience. Timur Gareyev, who graduated last month from UTB-TSC, sat on the edge of his seat, his hands to his mouth, listening to every note.

During intermission, the Uzbekistan native expressed his enthusiasm.

“I went to some plays a few weeks ago in New York,” said Gareyev, 23. “I’ve been to a bunch of concerts recently. This is very unique, maybe not as grandiose, but the genuine vibe that these guys produce is very infatuating, very engaging.”

The audience also liked the humor and dialogue. Different members of the group would step forward and explain each song.

“This is a song about a little chicken that keeps biting our feet and ankles and our legs,” said one singer. He swept his finger across his neck and said that’s what they would like to do to the chicken.

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