A Love for Mandela

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Tuesday May 29, 2018

From Music in Africa

Bassline Fest: Ladysmith Black Mambazo to rekindle love for Mandela
By: Ano Shumba

Ladysmith Black Mambazo are unquestionably South Africa’s best choral group that keeps flying the country’s flag high. Founded by Joseph Shabalala in 1960, the nine-member ensemble gained prominence when they collaborated with US singer-songwriter Paul Simon on the Graceland album in 1986. The iconic isicathamiya group’s music has impacted on the lives of many people ‘” ordinary and influential ‘” and is credited for preserving the country’s cultural industry through their rich music and traditionally inspired choreography. A favourite of Nelson Mandela, the award-winning ensemble caught the attention of the former statesman, which prompted him to declare the group as South African cultural ambassadors.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo member and son of Joseph Shabalala, Sibongiseni, spoke to Music In Africa ahead of the pan-African concert in Johannesburg.

What significance does Africa Day have on you as artists?

Africa Day is important for us as Africans to know who we are because it’s about knowing our identity. For us as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Africa Day is important in the sense that we are doing traditional music and it’s easy for us to compete with the rest of the world based on what we know. You don’t have to try to change yourself by imitating other people. People will accept you when you know who you are. It’s very difficult for someone to succeed if they don’t know their identity. So Africa Day reminds us to remain conscious and true to our African roots.

What’s the significance of Nelson Mandela’s legacy on Africa Day?

As Ladysmith Black Mambazo we have a history of working with Nelson Mandela, our leader. After coming out of prison in 1990 he had his birthday at Carlton Centre in Johannesburg in 1993 and he invited Ladysmith Black Mambazo to perform. It was a happy moment for me. It was such a great honour because I was still young. It was the year I joined the group. That day was my fifth or sixth performance with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. We have a great history with uBaba Tata Mandela. I just wish he could have made it to a 100.

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