Review: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 14 November '09
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the unique South African acappella group who gained worldwide recognition after their collaboration with Paul Simon on two tracks from his Graceland album - Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes and Homeless - which the leader of the group, Joseph Shabalala, co-wrote with Simon.
Founded forty-eight years ago by Shabalala, who remarkably is still the leader, the group sing a type of acapella for all-male choir called 'isicathamiya' which derives from the Zulu verb 'cathama' meaning 'walking softly' or 'tread carefully'. The music emanates from the South African mines at the turn of the 20th century, a time when numerous black men had to leave their homelands in search for work.
The men developed this style of singing with choreographed moves in order to cope with the long hours and adverse conditions and when they returned to their homelands a tradition of competitions began, which is still continued today in Zululand South Africa.
The music Ladysmith Black Mambazo produce is unique. The harmonies they create are sweet sounding, quite melliferous.
There are nine of them in the group, including four of Joseph Shabalala's sons, and each tune has a leader who frequently incorporates clicking sounds throughout the piece - a feature of isicathamiya music.
Much of the material in the concert consists of tunes which have lengthy repetitive phrases, another unusual feature in Shabalala's compositions. Laced with much comedy, the concert is a thoroughly entertaining, uplifting event even involving the audience at times.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo are on tour throughout Britain till the end of November.