The South African a capella vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be in Connecticut this weekend. The group began performing over 50 years ago during the period of apartheid, and became a worldwide sensation after performing on Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album in the 1980s.
Their performance is in Storrs, at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, on Saturday, February 1 at 8:00 pm.
This week, Ladysmith won a fourth Grammy award, which the group has dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela. Listen below to "Ofana Naye," music from the album Singing For Peace Around the World:
WNPR's Diane Orson spoke with longtime member Albert Mazibuko, and asked him what the end of apartheid meant for Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Albert Mazibuko: After we joined Paul Simon in 1986, I remember when we go back home, it expands our music. It grows our music because we find out that we have so many fans that they were not brave enough to come out and say, “We support Ladysmith Black Mambazo,” because of the apartheid. I’m talking about the people who are not our color. So joining Paul Simon, doing the Graceland, it opened a big gate for us.
Diane Orson: That’s interesting. Ladysmith borrows from a traditional form of music called isicathamiya, which in my understanding, was developed in the mines of South Africa. Is that style still a vibrant form of music there; is it still alive? Or when your generation passes, is this the kind of thing where this tradition might end?
That style is still alive and it is more vibrant. Now we have more people singing the same kind of music, and they are doing recordings, and they have DVDs. They have big competitions everywhere. Isicathamiya, it's more alive now, and people are more excited about it.
This week, America lost a folk music icon, Pete Seeger -- someone who actually helped to bring the South African song, “Wimoweh,” to the world. I’m just wondering, did you ever sing with Pete Seeger?
Oh yes, we have. And then we heard the sad news, and then we say, “Wow.” So we said, “Pete Seeger, now, he’s gone to join the heavenly choir.” We have [sung] with him several times. I remember there was time we had a show with him at Carnegie Hall in New York. I was so happy, and everyone was so happy just to be next to him. He was with his grandson. It was wonderful to see this guy. He did a very wonderful job by bringing this song to America.
So, you are coming to perform here in Connecticut this weekend. What can audiences expect to hear?
Some songs from our new release. It's Always With Us, which is the basic of isicathamiya music. These are the wedding songs and the church songs. This is where isicathamiya, it was born. So we’re singing; we’re performing those songs, about four or five them. It's so wonderful. And then, also, we’ll be singing the Mambazo favorite songs.
And a final question; how are you handling the cold weather?
I’m handling it so well! I remember that I took a walk here yesterday, and this morning, and on the way, I said, “Wow! It feels so good!” I just wanted to feel it how it is being outside. It was about an hour. Feels great!