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Shabalala’s Living Legacy

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Friday June 01, 2018

From Business Day

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is Shabalala’s living legacy
By: Struan Douglas

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the African sound that has enjoyed the most success in the US, is performing a series of concerts in SA. The group has released 60 albums and has won five Grammy awards.

It was founded by Joseph Shabalala, who says his love for Zulu music started at home when his mother was cooking. She would sing and the family would join in. His father worked on the mines and formed a singing group.

In 1964 Shabalala was guided by a dream that persisted every night for six months. Children appeared to him singing and dancing sweetly. They coached him on how to blend voices and dance moves. He recruited his cousins and brothers and formed a vocal group. It was named “Ladysmith” as a proclamation of his home; “black” in reference to the most powerful breed of oxen on the farm; and “Mambazo”, meaning chopping axe, a crucial tool in rural areas.

Many of Shabalala’s compositions come from his dreams. His first, Nomathemba, introduced his life mission to spread peace, love and harmony.

His son Thulani recalls: “My father was always hearing people singing for him. When he woke up from a dream at 2am he would wake us up and say, ‘this is the song I have dreamt, please keep it and remind me in the morning’. When we were rehearsing, our father taught us that it is not only about singing, we also have to talk. That spirit of the angel must be with us,” says Thulani. “It starts within. You have to respect yourself as a creature of God. And, with your gift you represent your country, your father, mother and ancestors. Music is about helping one another. Only then will people follow you.”

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