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Ladysmith Black Mambazo: "A Heartwarming Cultural Exploration"

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Wednesday January 29, 2014

From DC Metro Theater Arts

Ladysmith Black Mambazo at The Barns of Wolf Trap
By: Erica Laxson

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed at The Barns at Wolf Trap last night, just 24 hours after they won their 4th Grammy Award for Live: Singing For Peace Around The World, the 2013 Best World Music Album. The Zulu a cappella group exuberantly sang some of their most popular songs as well as a few numbers from, Always with Us their new album honoring the group’s matriarch. The evening was a heartwarming cultural exploration filled with happiness, love, and the unstoppable urge move along with unique South African rhythm.

While the group’s founder, Joseph Shabalala, was recovering from surgery, his descendants, Msizi Shabalala, Thulani Shabalala, Sibongiseni Shabalala, and Thamsanqa Shabalala represented the family name on stage along with group members Albert Mazibuko, Abednego Mazibuko and Ngane Dlamini. The South African performers delighted the crowd with the sights and sounds of their culture, highlighted by the traditional clothing of their homeland and a variety of dances. Acting as self proclaimed “cultural ambassadors,” we were invited to sing and clap along in harmony as they introduced different parts of their world through song.

Though the group features only a cappella singing, there was no doubt that finely crafted musical instruments graced the stage. The incredible vocal control and lyrical message engages the soul of any music lover, but it was also enjoyable to watch the group sway and undulate their bodies with such precision that a well timed exhale would intentionally change the inflection of notes and sounds as they danced. Even the distance each singer stood from the microphone was incorporated into their perfectly timed choreography as they used the amplification or lack thereof to create echoes, soft tones, and symphonic sounds.

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