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Ladysmith Black Mambazo Sustain South Africa's Voice Through Music

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Wednesday January 26, 2011

from PopEater

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Sustain South Africa’s Voice Through Music
By Jett Wells

You know them from ‘The Lion King’ soundtrack, but Nelson Mandela once called them “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors.” Since then, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has continued to take Mandela’s message of peace and spread it around the world.

For an a cappella group that began in 1973 and won three Grammys, Ladysmith’s voice is still resilient and timeless. Original member Albert Mazibuko tells PopEater the group strives to sing to more generations to come, especially with new album ‘Songs from a Zulu Farm’ on the way.

What did it mean to you when Nelson Mandela referred to you as cultural ambassadors of your nation?
This was the highest honor for us. To be singled out by Nelson Mandela told us that we needed to look at ourselves, as a group, differently. We truly represented our nation and had to continuously understand that responsibility.

What kind of responses do you see while touring internationally? Was it always open arms, or was it hard to translate a South African sound?
It seemed, and still seems, that people truly open their arms and minds to what we do. People understand we represent our nation and culture and want to share this with everyone. People seem to want to embrace what we offer.

Do you see the group as more about music or sending a message, acting as teachers?
That is an interesting question. I think the message is most important, but we use the music to deliver the message. And in doing so we want to be teachers. It’s really all as one — very intertwined for us. I guess we see ourselves as teachers bringing a message through our singing.

How’s the progress with the Mambazo Academy? Is it completely built yet?
Sadly, the progress is very slow. There are so many things changing in South Africa and only a little bit of money to go around. We do spend most of our spare time, when we are home, teaching the young ones about the culture and its history. But doing so in an organized academy has not occurred.

You’ve collaborated with so many notable musicians like Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon. What’s your best memory from those experiences?
Yes, we have been honored to be asked by so many famous and important people, so to pick just one out is very difficult. Of course the Paul Simon memory is the most important for us. We recently worked with Josh Groban, and I think this was different because he is of a new generation, and when we met him he showed that he really loved what we do. So knowing our singing has affected a new generation of artists was touching.

Read the full article and watch a live performance here