Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs at ECC
By Chris Peterson For Sun-Times Media February 14, 2013 12:36PM
Ladysmith Black Mambazo will appear at Elgin Community College on Feb. 16. | File Photo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
♦ Feb. 16
♦ Tickets, $35
♦ (847) 622-0300
Twenty-five years ago, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album introduced much of the world to the unique musical talents of South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Although many people outside of South Africa didn’t know of the group before Simon’s combination of American rock music and African vocal harmonies, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been a successful group for more than 50 years, and this weekend they bring their music to the Blizzard Theater at the Elgin Community College Arts Center.
Founded in 1960 by Joseph Shabalala, Ladysmith Black Mambazo combines the traditional African singing styles of isicathamiya and mbube. Originated by Zulu tribes in South Africa, these forms of music involve groups of male singers singing in harmony while performing choreographed dancing.
Albert Mazibuko has been a member of the group since the beginning, and he said that even if audiences in Elgin aren’t familiar with the group, they’re sure to have a good time.
“They can expect a show that is going to warm up their hearts,” Mazibuko said. “It’s a show that no one should miss.”
With just the nine members of the group on stage performing in unison, Mazibuko said a Ladysmith Black Mambazo performance is unlike anything else people may have experienced when it comes to live music. “It’s a kind of music that transports you from the place you are to a place you’ve never been before,” he said.
For those who are familiar with the group, Mazibuko said they know what they can expect from the show, but they also can expect something a little different. “The sound hasn’t changed,” Mazibuko said. “But the way of singing and the songs and the messages change every day.”
The overall message of Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one that has been unchanged since the earliest days of the group, when it was formed under the oppressive atmosphere of South Africa’s apartheid system. Even though the members of the group saw a lot of pain and suffering as that nation struggled to reach racial equality, Ladysmith Black Mambazo concentrated on spreading a positive, hopeful message.
“Our message is simple and clear,” Mazibuko said. “We have a message of peace, love and harmony.”
Mazibuko added that the group’s goal is to unite all people in a “rainbow nation” that isn’t divided by prejudices, and he hopes that message will inspire and uplift audiences in Elgin the way it has for people all over the world. “It doesn’t matter that we don’t look alike,” he said. “(I hope) that they will leave the theater happy and warm-hearted.”