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

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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.”



Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo say they are al­ways well re­ceived at home

DARK AND AN­DROG­Y­NOUS Hamza Guel­mouss’ cap­sule col­lec­tion

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