Friday, March 9, 2012
Some Lesser Known Facts on Ladysmith Black Mambazo
In honor of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's returnn to The Barns tonight - and also since I'm endlessly excited about Paul Simon's recent announcement of a 2012 25th anniversary Graceland tour featuring all of the musicians who initially played on Simon's seminal 1987 album - here's a brief retrospective on this historic band.
They were formed in the early 1960s, making this their 6th decade of live performance.
Ever wondered what their name means? I sure have. "Ladysmith" derives from founder Joseph Shabalala's rural South African hometown, "Black" is a reference to oxen, which are widely accepted as the strongest of all farm animals, and "Mambazo" is the Zulu word for axe. Why axe? Because it symbolizes the group's vocal ability to chop down all other competition. Throughout the '60s, the ensemble was literally banned from South African vocal competitions because no other entrants could rival their talent.
While the band does perform Gospel music, the collective message of its body of work is not specific to any one religion. Shabalala remains clear on this point, that the music is designed to "evoke enthusiasm and excitement, regardless of what you follow spiritually."
Origin of Music
Ladysmith delivers a traditional style of music called Isicathamiya which was developed in the mines of South Africa many years ago. Similar to former slave culture here in the United States, South African mine workers were plucked from their homes and families to work in poor conditions with minimal pay. After a grueling six-day work week, workers would rejuvenate by singing Isicathamiya songs well into the early hours of Sunday morning.
If you're one of the lucky ones, you'll catch Ladysmith returning to the stage alongside Paul Simon for a tour in support of the 25th anniversary of Graceland. Graceland is Simon's career-defining recording that won the 1986 GRAMMY Award for Best Album, featuring Ladysmith's vocal backing on several tracks.
They've Performed for Who??
Ladysmith has performed for the Queen of England and the Royal Family, Pope John Paul II, multiple South African Presidents, and at two Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies.
After all this juicy knowledge, I'm sorry to report that this show is sold-out, but they'll surely be back at The Barns in years to come. Keep an eye out for those Graceland tour tickets.