Music comes full circle

February 05, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. - The story of a Zulu warrior has brought Ladysmith Black Mambazo full circle, putting the South African men's ensemble in the running for another Grammy.

Ladysmith has a tour stop in Frederick on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in promotion of the group's latest album, "Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu."

"Ilembe" is an ode to 18th-century Zulu warrior Shaka Zulu, who unified and energized the Zulu people amid European domination.

Shaka Zulu's story resonated throughout South Africa's struggle to break free from apartheid and has since come to embody cultural pride.

Now, "Ilembe" has been nominated for a Grammy. The award's ceremony will be televised Sunday, Feb. 8.

"We took it back to our roots," said Albert Mazibuko, an original member of Ladysmith, in a recent phone interview with The Herald-Mail.


"Shaka Zulu" was the name of Ladysmith's first Grammy-award winning album and was the group's first pivotal effort after collaborating with Paul Simon on "Graceland" - winner of Album of the Year in 1986 and Record of the Year in 1987.

Ladysmith won its second Grammy in 2004 for its album, "Raise Your Spirit Higher."

Mazibuko, 60, is the cousin of Ladysmith's founder and leader Joseph Shabalala. Mazibuko has been with the group for 40 years.

Ladysmith borrows from the isicathamiya style, a traditional form of music making developed by black workers who toiled in the South African mines.

"But it would be a new style of singing," Mazibuko said.

In 1960s South Africa, when the group formed, blacks were under the demoralizing grip of aparthied. The idea was to offer hope through music.

"We were encouraging people to stick together," Mazibuko said. "We were offering encouragement."

Ladysmith has since earned a critical reputation for being a mouthpeice for South African music. But lately, there have been questions about what will happen next for Ladysmith.

The group's leader and founder, Shabalala, has said in interviews that he plans to retire.

"I've heard him say that," Mazibuko said. "I don't think he's going to retire."

Shabalala has been grooming his son to take over the group, Mazibuko said, ensuring the tradition Ladysmith has worked so hard to preserve gets passed on.

"That's why we say we're going to stay," Mazibuko said. "We feel that if we let it go now, we'll never find it again."

If you go ...

WHAT: Ladysmith Black Mambazo in concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11

WHERE: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md. Downtown.

COST: Tickets cost $20, $25 and $30

CONTACT: For tickets, call Weinberg Center for the Arts, 301-600-2828 or go to

MORE: For more about Ladysmith Black Mambazo,

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