From Tears to Cheers, the Ladysmith Journey Continues

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Monday July 02, 2018

From The Sydney Morning Herald

From Tears to Cheers, the Ladysmith Journey Continues
By: John Shand

It was news that came from nowhere. Ladysmith Black Mambazo were on tour when they heard that someone from New York wished to meet their leader, Joseph Shabalala’‘. That someone turned out to be Paul Simon, who, to their complete amazement, wanted to work with them. At the time, after all, the all-male a capella ensemble had virtually no profile outside South Africa.

“He made such different music to us, and we didn’t know anything about singing pop music,” recalls Albert Mazibuko’‘, who since Shabalala’s’‘ 2014 retirement has become the group’s longest-serving member (49 years). Simon sent them a cassette of Homeless, accompanying himself on piano, with a note saying it was based on one of their recordings.

“So we listened to it,” continues Mazibuko’‘, “and we worked around with that idea, but we were still concerned because now we didn’t know how he was going to sing with us, because now we are making the song with our style of singing.”

Fast-forward a fortnight and the group found themselves flying to England to help make the ground-breaking Graceland’‘ album. This may have been about to rocket them into the forefront of the world’s consciousness, but they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders to begin.

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