Review: Ladysmith Black Mambazo packs entertainment

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Monday March 01, 2010

By: Michael Machosky

If you can figure out how to pack more entertainment into two hours than Ladysmith Black Mambazo — using nothing more high-tech than the power of the human voice, and some microphones — well, I’m all ears.
To be fair, there’s nine of them, and they’ve been around for 50 years. The South African a capella group performed at Downtown’s Byham Theater Sunday night, led by founder Joseph Shabala. He’s surrounded by younger guys, including his son, but can still dance and kick high above his head — which all the Mambazo guys do, and often. It’s their synchronized, yet-seemingly-spontaneous dancing — oddly reminiscent of the Four Tops or Temptations, at times — that makes the Mambazo show so visually exciting.
Yet, these guys can really sing. It’s gospel music sung in a Zulu a capella tradition — the smooth, harmonious one, not the loud, powerful one — with some love songs and mildly ribald stage banter thrown in.
Mambazo’s music hasn’t evolved in a vacuum, though. They also performed “Homeless,” a song originally written for Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album that first exposed the band to American audiences.
They also invited everybody to visit them in South Africa for the World Cup this summer, a nice reminder just as the Olympics were ending.

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