Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Long Song to Freedom

music_LadysmithMambazoLadysmith Black Mambazo fought Apartheid with grace

A lot of people talk about the power of music. Not many can say that they helped uproot an entire system of government and an oppressive social paradigm with their vocal harmonies.

 

While Paul Simon’s unveiling of Ladysmith Black Mambazo as his backing ensemble on the groundbreaking Graceland plunged the South African a cappella group to the forefront of global pop culture in 1986, the family of singers had already long been at the forefront of an anti-Apartheid musical movement at home.

When founder Joseph Shabalala first intertwined a sparkling all-male web of bass, alto and tenor pipes in 1964, outside of Durban in his hometown of Ladysmith, the group won every local contest it entered, to the point where the ensemble was banned from competing. Three Grammy Awards (and 13 nominations) later, and having sold more records than any African band in history, Ladysmith today stands as the most beloved voice of South Africa; one that created a musical bridge between white and black countryman, as well as between the country and the rest of the world.

At the time of Apartheid’s official divisions, Ladysmith fused Zulu isicathamiya and mbube harmonizing and dance with Christian traditions (as in their sobering version of “Amazing Grace”), and stepped forward to literally sing and dance past racial and political barriers. Nelson Mandela himself invited the group to accompany him during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and a year later Ladysmith’s ghostly harmonies—haunting and spiritually rousing—escorted in Mandela’s presidency at his official inauguration ceremony.

Now an eight-member choral group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo fills the Rio Theatre this week with unmatched, otherworldly harmonies on Monday, July 13, performing songs off this year’s Grammy-winner for Best Traditional World Music, Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu. Albert Mazibuko, a member since 1969, tells GT about how the humble yet internationally renowned group has kept the faith—and helps others to do the same.

Good Times: You began your career winning goats in local village competitions and have gone on to win Grammy awards. Winning which has meant the most to you?

Albert Mazibuko: Early on, winning the local competitions was very important and life affecting because it showed us that we were good at what we were doing. It encouraged us to focus on [music] and keep going. It also showed the rest of the people we were very good and it got the attention of radio stations, event promoters and record labels, so it really was important at the beginning. Honestly, [that was] probably more important than the Grammys. Winning three Grammy Awards has been wonderful and important, too. It also tells the world that people think a lot of our music so they pay attention. It helps us continue on our world travels every year. But, I think, if we didn’t win Grammys or won less, we would still be touring as we do.

The history of Apartheid is relatively recent. Since its end, you’ve witnessed Mandela become president of  South Africa and now you’ve witnessed the first African American president in the U.S. What are your thoughts about these dramatic changes?

It shows that good change is possible. In South Africa it shows us that as long as we don’t fight, that we work together as one nation and people, we can make things better. This is what we are doing in South Africa; making things better by working together. Overcoming hate and years of anger. For what has happened in the USA with the election of President Obama, it’s a good thing to see America change so much in what is possible for the individual and the nation since its racial problems of the past.

People use weapons to rebel. You used, and still use, music. What made you think it could work in such dire times?

We have always felt that music is universal. We have a song called “Music Knows No Boundaries.” No matter where you are in the world people can unite over music, and if the message is positive then you can really make something good happen. If someone doesn’t speak your language they still can be affected by your music.

In 2006 you paid tribute to Mandela and democracy in South Africa with ‘Long Walk to Freedom.’ Last year you paid tribute to Shaka Zulu on ‘Ilembe’. What should your audience take from these albums?

Shaka was, and is, a very important person, hero and role model for South Africans. He united the country. He made people come together and work as one, and he was very proud to be African and Zulu. He spoke of living a life in a positive nature. All people can learn from him because he spoke of being the best you can be and not less. Regarding Nelson Mandela, well, we are just so blessed that we could join him for part of his journey these past years.

After four decades of performing, what reactions to your music have still surprised you ?

It’s the small moments between us/me and certain fans. We get lots of e-mails and we meet so many people at our concerts who tell us how important our songs have been to them or a loved one. People tell us how they raised their children with our music, how it taught the children that love and peace are important and the world is a big and beautiful place. We’ve been told how certain loved ones wanted to have our music playing to them as they left this world. These have been the most important messages to us about how people have reacted to us.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”