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Zulu Rock: Ladysmith Black Mambazo Sings of Peace in a Violent Land

Ross Boissoneau - March 10th, 2005
Whatever the song or the setting, the harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo are instantly recognizable. Now you can hear for yourself Wednesday, March 16 when the acclaimed South African group performs at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Whether it’s with Paul Simon, who first brought the a capella group to worldwide attention on the “Graceland” disc and tour, with harp player Andreas Vollenweider, or performing alongside an orchestra as on “No Boundaries,” their latest recording, the 10 member-group has created a sound and identity like no other.
That’s been recognized by audiences worldwide, as well as by the critics. As proof, the group just won the Grammy for Best Traditional World Music Album, their second Grammy, for “Raise Your Spirit Higher.”
“We are so grateful and proud to have been awarded the Grammy Award. It’s a humbling moment,” said group leader Joseph Shabalala, the founder of the world-renowned Zulu singing group. “The members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and I accept this award, not just as recognition for our songs, but for our culture, our people and our country.”
It’s that attitude and spirit which pervades their music. Singer Albert Mazibuko, who’s shared the stage alongside his cousin for more than 30 years, exhibits the same gentleness and yearning for peace.
“We want to encourage people to work together,” Mazibuko said. “The music is South Africa striving for peace. If we sing of peace it will come out.”

DEATH IN THE FAMILY
That message of peace has been hard won. The group lived under the shadow of apartheid in its native country until the election of Nelson Mandela just a decade ago.
More recently, Shabalala’s wife Nellie was murdered by a masked gunman outside their church in South Africa in 2002. And last year, Shabalala’s brother Ben, a member of the group during the Paul Simon “Graceland” era, was shot and killed in Durban.
Despite these tragedies, the group remains committed to its message of peace and harmony.
Ladysmith has sung with numerous artists of all stripes: Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, the Corrs and others.
“It’s amazing. It’s so good to sing with all these people,” said Mazibuko. “It creates different feelings when you sing with different people. Music is a gift. When we come together we become one. It’s necessary.”
But his favorite remains the album and tour which brought Ladysmith Black Mamabazo and South African music in general to the attention of the U.S.
“My favorite is Paul Simon,” he said with a smile in his voice. “That tour stands out with me. It was so wonderful, and a great breakthrough.”
Mazibuko said the audience at Interlochen will hear a mix of the group’s music, including songs from “Raise Your Spirit Higher” and “No Boundaries” as well as numerous other songs from throughout the group’s history.
“We’re just bringing in some of the new material,” he said. “People can connect young and old. The young are innovative, the old have wisdom. You bring that together and it makes our world a peaceful place.
“That’s what we want to share with our audience.”
For ticket information call the Interlochen box office at 276-9222.

 
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