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Q&A with Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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Thursday February 02, 2017

From The Wichita Eagle

Q&A with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, group featured on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’
By: Matt Reidl

Since Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s collaboration with Paul Simon on his 1986 album, “Graceland,” the group has toured worldwide.

The South African all-male a cappella group’s 2016 release, “Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers,” is currently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is coming to North Newton on Tuesday, Feb. 7, as part of the Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts Series – the second time the group has performed there (they previously came in 2010).

If you weren’t aware of the band’s seminal “Graceland” collaboration, you may have at least heard of the group – it was briefly referenced in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls.”

The outlook for the 57-year-old vocal group was not always so rosy, however – for a large portion of its existence, it operated under the shackles of apartheid in South Africa.

Albert Mazibuko, who has sung with the group for 48 years, reflected on the group’s past and future in a phone interview earlier this week, from his hotel room in Seattle.

Responses have been edited for clarity.

Q. How well do you remember those early days singing in South Africa?

A. I remember every, every, everything. When (Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder) Joseph (Shabalala) approached me in 1969 – he founded the group in 1960, but in 1969 he came to me – I was with my brother and one of my cousins. The story he told us – he came to us because he knew that we will help him achieve what he wanted to achieve in music. He wanted to write music that is going to help the people be able to cope with the situation in South Africa at the time. So he said we will write the songs that are going to be powerful and make them stronger and tell them things are going to be OK if we stick together and work together in a peaceful way. That was our aim. I remember the first song he taught us that afternoon. … The song was pleading to God, saying we kneel before Thee, asking for peace in our country.

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