Mambazo still going strong
This year, SA legendary ’scathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo is celebrating 55 years of award-winning music. The group spoke to Gugulethu Mhlungu about the journey so far
Ladysmith Black Mambazo are the poster children for consistency. They have kept the sound of the group exactly as it was 55 years ago, when founding member Joseph Shabalala started the group, and they have done so deliberately.
Today, minus Joseph, the Shabalala brothers (Thulani and Thamsanqa, Joseph’s sons) and cousins are still there, along with longtime members Albert Mazibuko, who joined in 1969, and Abednigo Mazibuko, who joined in 1974.
Thulani, now leading the group, says: “Of course we were a little nervous when our father decided to retire, but he was confident we could do it [without him], and that was enough for us.”
Their accolades include four SA Music Awards, as well as sold-out world tours, with shows in England, the US, France, Italy and Germany.
When we sat down at The Lyric theatre in Joburg to meet, they had just received a lifetime achievement award at the All Africa Music Awards in Nigeria, adding to their heavy cabinet of prizes.
After more than half a century of the group, they say the love South Africans have for them has been the greatest constant: “Our people love us so much, it’s amazing. When we won our fourth Grammy Award, the people back home heard before we did because we were performing. We had people calling us to congratulate us.”
The band spends a lot of time touring and performing out of the country.
“From the young and old, to government, we love coming home and are excited to return home on December 13 for a performance in Durban before we go on a 10-week tour of the States and Australia.”
Lovers of Mambazo can look forward to the next few years because they have new offerings up their sleeves.
“We have the albums done and recorded them in advance because we get so busy with touring that it’s hard to record. We want to release the first one early next year in the States, most likely to coincide with our US tour, and then maybe release it here too. We haven’t decided when the second album will be released.” The big question is: how have they kept going for longer than some of their fans have been alive?
They answer: “iMambazo was started by our father [Joseph], who said he heard the music and harmonies in his dreams, and he decided to follow that dream and make the music he was hearing.
“He always said the music wasn’t his own intelligence, but a gift he must stay true to, and that’s how we have kept going.
“We stayed true to the dream and this gift, and when he decided to leave the group so he could rest, he told us to stay true to the sound – and that’s what we’ve done.”
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