Ladysmith Black Mambazo
On Tuesday, January 26, Swarm and the Community Center for the Performing Arts proudly welcome Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the WOW Hall. Ladysmith Black Mambazo will return to Eugene for the first time in three years.
In 2014, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – a South African a cappella group formed by Joseph Shabalala in the 60’s – received its fourth Grammy Award for their album, Singing for Peace Around the World. The album title is a statement of the group’s career mission. Inspired by the peaceful protests of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo have always written songs of hope about a better tomorrow. For its work and importance, Nelson Mandela designated the group “South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the world.” Ladysmith Black Mambazo even accompanied Mandela to Oslo, Norway in 1993 to be present when he accepted his Noble Peace Prize.
Paul Simon incorporated Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his landmark Graceland album, which introduced many millions of his fans to world music. Since then, the group has recorded with the biggest artists in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, Melissa Etheridge and many more. They have provided vocals and songs for film soundtracks including The Lion King, Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America and the scores for movies starring James Earl Jones, Marlon Brando and Clint Eastwood. The group has even been nominated for Academy and Tony Awards.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo was founded in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala, then a young farm boy turned factory worker. Ladysmith is the name of Joseph’s hometown, a small farming area between Durban and Johannesburg; Black being a reference to the oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo, the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Their ability won so many awards that by the end of the 1960's they were banned from competitions, although they were welcomed to participate as entertainers.
The group sings from a traditional music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa, where black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.
A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract – the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than fifty recordings, fifteen Grammy Award nominations and those four Grammy Award statues. During the 1970's Ladysmith Black Mambazo established themselves as the most successful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated the group's harmonies into his famous Graceland album – a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo carries a message of peace, love and harmony as they travel the world year after year. They bring this message, in song and dance, to every theater they perform in. Join them as they sing their message.
Limited seating is available. Seated tickets are $29 in advance; general admission is $19 advance. Tickets will be sold at the door if the event has not sold out.