Ladysmith Black Mambazo
In 2012, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – led by founder and front man Joseph Shabalala – celebrates fifty-one years of joyous and uplifting music that marries the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native South African musical traditions to the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music. In those years, the a cappella vocal group has created a musical and spiritual alchemy that has touched a worldwide audience representing every corner of the religious, cultural and ethnic landscape. Their musical efforts over the past four decades have garnered praise and accolades within the recording industry, but also solidified their identity as a cultural force to be reckoned with.
Assembled in the early 1960s in South Africa by Shabalala – then a young farm boy turned factory worker – the group took the name Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Ladysmith being the name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black being a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo being the Zulu word for axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Their collective voices were so tight and their harmonies so polished that they were eventually banned from competitions – although they were welcome to participate strictly as entertainers.
In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated Black Mambazo’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his Graceland album – a landmark 1986 recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. A year later, Simon produced Black Mambazo’s first U.S. release, Shaka Zulu, which won a Grammy in 1988 for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then the group has won an additional two Grammy Awards (2005 & 2009) and received fifteen Grammy Award Nominations.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo returns to it’s roots with Songs From A Zulu Farm, a collection of traditional songs from the group member’s childhoods on the farms of Zululand South Africa. The album recreates the idyllic world in which the members once lived and shares it with audiences around the world. The cd is the first of three the group will be releasing that sings about their lives in South Africa. The trilogy, called Our South African Story, will feature a second cd with songs from their church in South Africa and a third cd with songs from the townships they lived in after leaving the farms of Ladysmith.
Johnny Clegg is one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons. He is a singer, songwriter, dancer, anthropologist and musical activist whose infectious crossover music, a vibrant blend of Western pop and African Zulu rhythms, has exploded onto the international scene and broken through all the barriers in his own country. In France, where he enjoys a massive following, he is fondly called Le Zulu Blanc – the white Zulu.
Johnny Clegg has sold over five million albums of his brand of crossover music worldwide – both as an individual artist and with his bands, Juluka and Savuka. He has wowed vast audiences with his audacious live shows and won a number of national and international awards for his music and for his outspoken views on apartheid, his perspectives on migrant workers in South Africa, and the general situation in the world today. Johnny Clegg’s history is as bold, colourful and dashing as the rainbow country that he has called home for more than 40 years.