Ladysmith Black Mambazo talks memories of Nelson Mandela

Jan 31, 2014

World music would not carry the same tempo if not for the infectious, melodic, uplifting tones of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The all-male African singing ensemble founded by Joseph Shabalala has been performing their trademark a-capella style for over 40 years. The ensemble has produced over 50 recordings and won four Grammys, most recently for their album Live: Singing For Peace Around The World

The group's newest album Always With Us, is a tribute to founder Joseph Shabalala's wife, Nellie. The songs feature Nellie's own vocals with her church choir recorded from over a decade ago. The title is also a fitting tie-in to the group's association with the late Nelson Mandela, whom they performed for regularly.

"He's also with us all the way, all the time," says Mazibuko, who remembers feeling inspired by Mandela even when fulfilling his song requests.

"He inspires you just to think about him. When we choose those songs that he said he wants us to sing, it was always the happy moment of our life. It was something that was gonna stay with us the whole time." 

"We are the generation that we will appreciate the icon that have lived in this world, because we shared the good time with him. The time that he struggled, it was over, so he was enjoying the fruits of his work that he has done, but he wanted to celebrate that with us." 

The 65-year-old singer also confirmed that neither he nor Shabalala are retiring. Recent reports stated that the 73-year-old was stepping down, but were declared false by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 

Shabalala's sons are currently featured in the group lineup, and Mazibuko is the only founding member who is still a part of the ensemble. He says that Shabalala's doctor advised him to sit out this world tour, which will last through March.

"I know when we come back he will be waiting for us with new material because he writes songs every time," says Mazibuko, who is Shabalala's cousin. As for himself, "Maybe when I'm 90-something, maybe I'll think about it."

For those planning to attend the show on February 7 at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Mazibuko says to prepare to be enlivened and energized, as they are full of "...singing and dancing and storytelling and jokes. When people come to our show...they will [leave] different people because our music is so inspiring and entertaining, educating and makes life nice. People can say 'life is beautiful."

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