Bringing Music and Harmony

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Thursday May 03, 2018

From Eastern Daily Press

Ladysmith Black Mambazo on bringing music and harmony to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds
By: Simon Parkin

Legendary South African a cappella male choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who found global fame on Paul Smith’s Graceland album, tells us about bringing their rich harmonies to the Norfolk and Norwich and Bury St Edmunds festivals this month.

The first Ladysmith Black Mambazo album, Amabutho in 1973, became the first release in South Africa by black musicians to receive gold status. In the period of apartheid, was that a big breakthrough moment?

It certainly was. It showed the music business people that the black population could be an economic force. The music industry did not look at black music groups as a real source of making money. Once we did this then the music industry wanted to cater more towards this audience and give them what they wanted.

Following Graceland, your 1987 album Shaka Zulu (produced by Simon) really brought you to international success. Last year you did Shaka Zulu Revisited. Why did you want to return to that music?

The first reason was it was the 30th anniversary of the original recording. We wanted to celebrate that event. Also, since the original release our founder, Joseph Shabalala, retired in 2014 and the group is now led by his four sons, who joined over 25 years ago but after the original recording. They wanted to celebrate with the new voices Ladysmith Black Mambazo is since they joined the group. It is a way to honour their father and the original members and recording.

Shaka Zulu won a Grammy and Shaka Zulu Revisited did the same exactly a decade later. You have a remarkable record of nominations and wins. Why do the Grammys love you so much?

Yes, Shaka Zulu Revisited won the Grammy three decades after the original. This is so important to us because it is the Grammy Awards saying what we are doing is still powerful. We know the Grammy voters look for tradition and roots for our usual Grammy Award category (Best World Music). They aren’t looking for Westernised world music, they want to hear traditional styles. So when they hear our singing they hear a group that is all about tradition, about staying authentic and true to the musical roots. When you listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2018 you still hear the singing from 30 years ago, 50 years ago or even further back. We honour our history and culture.

Read more from their interview here