Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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About Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo first burst to international attention when Paul Simon showcased their breathtaking, call-and-response choral music on his 1986 album, Graceland. But this South African all-male vocal group had been around for decades before Simon showed up, and they’ve remained a global-scale musical institution ever since. The concept for the ensemble literally came to founding member Joseph Shabalala in a dream: The singer from the KwaZulu-Natal region claimed that, in the early ’60s, he was visited multiple times in his slumber by an ensemble of robed children singing in perfect harmony. The dreams inspired him to write his own music based on the tender isicathamiya vocal style popular among Zulu miners, and he dubbed his new group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in tribute to his hometown (Ladysmith), the black ox, and the axe (“mambazo” in Zulu). The group have released dozens of albums and won numerous Grammys over the decades, and their richly layered, gospel-tinged compositions have translated well in collaborations with stars as varied as Dolly Parton and David Guetta. Shabalala retired from the group in 2014—six years before his passing—leaving his sons in charge, and today Ladysmith Black Mambazo continue to deliver a message of beautiful human harmony.

Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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