Ladysmith Black Mambazo: UK tour from MAY 19

Event location: 
UK tour, beginning from May 19 to June 22, London: Barbican, Silk Street, City of London, United Kingdom - 020 7638 4141 on May 23
Event dates: 
19 May, 2011 - 17:00 - 22 June, 2011 - 23:00

Famous South African vocal group Ladymsith Black Mambazo are touring the UK and will be showcasing songs from their new album Songs From A Zulu Farm.

We spoke to member Albert Mazibuko about the tour and the group:

What are you looking forward to on your UK tour?
This is a very special tour because we will be performing some songs that we were singing when we were children so by singing these songs it’s a happy moment at every show – it will make me happy every time – wherever the show is on.

And this is the songs from the new album?

Who wrote the songs?
Some of them are traditional songs – Joseph Shabalala and Russel Mthembu – expanded some of them because they were too short – so they added some other material to make it a full song.

How does the group work? Do you practice and Joseph takes the lead?
We practice and Joseph takes the lead. Especially when he has a new song – he writes it in the book and then he sings the song – he doesn’t even have to tell us how to sing the song, he sings it and we join in – if there are things that need to be fixed he will tell you ... like, can you try and sing it this way...but he also likes to embrace everybody’s opinion. When we are practicing we let the others guys take the lead because they we get to see who is talented. Joseph is not getting young anymore so his youngest son Thami was appointed to take the lead in the group so now when we are performing on the stage, maybe Joseph do only three songs and then his son will take over and then Joseph comes back.

Have you been part of the group since the very beginning?
I have been part of the group since 1969 – in fact we reformed the group in 1969 – Joseph formed the group in 1960 and was singing with different people up until 1969 – then he became serious about implementing his desire and his dream and his vision about his music.

The group that he had said it was too much for them because he wanted them to sing something they had never heard ... so he left that group and came to me with his brother. I was with my brother and one of my cousins – we reformed the group.

Joseph explained what he was looking for and we said ‘wow, this sounds so interesting’ let’s give it a try. We will be here for you, you can teach us whatever you want’ – so we never stopped.

So it is mostly Tshabalala’s and Mazibuko’s?
(Laugh) Yes, mostly but we also have Mthembu and Dlamini – as different surnames. We are related to the Tshabalala’s as cousins. It is a family...

The music is all about faith and lifting people’s spirits. Has that always been important for you to do?

I never thought the group would become so successful, but always believed that if we sing this kind of music the way that we do, it will lift up people’s spirits. At the time that the group was formed people were so devastated with so many things in the political life in South Africa so we started to sing the songs from a long time ago and reminded them about the warriors and Shaka Zulu, who was a hero and who always believed in perfection. We said do your will take you far!

It worked and then we were invited by Paul Simon and got so far and sang with so many people – it is like a dream come true for us.

Do you tour in Africa a lot?
We tour in Africa but not as much as we tour in Europe and Australia, Asia, America and the UK.

When you come to the UK, do you think people don’t need to understand the words but just the music?
Yes, people need to hear the music because it is a universal language – when I want to listen to music sometimes, I put on my CD and it is just instrumental so I just enjoy the music or music in other languages that I don’t understand but the music has its own place in my heart.

It goes with my spirit and lifts me up and I love it!

You’ve won so many awards, what do you still want to accomplish as a group?
We would like to establish a school where we can teach our kind of music and all other types of traditional music and promote it.

We believe that if we do that, the music will carry on forever. We have seen so much good music being forgotten about and people going on to invent new music but leaving behind the beautiful music that we know so well.

So we want the school where we can teach that will be wonderful.

Where would you want the school to be?
In Ladysmith where we thing the music is established. Things are going slow but something is happening, we do workshops and competitions every month – encouraging the young men, the children from school to sing.

It’s going well but we are still looking forward to saying ‘Yes, this is the home to our kind of music’.

Do you play with other kinds of groups – for instance kwaito musicians?
Not as much as we would like to, we do have opportunities to share the stage with them but we have never recorded with them, which we would like. We have of course, co-operated with other music like classical music ... but kwaito not yet.

We would love to do that because we think we could inspire the kwaito artists and encourage people to think positively and make sense to the people and make them think about the context of the time.

Re South Africa, how do you feel about SA?
It’s great, it’s wonderful.

Re the UK audiences, you’ve toured before and they love you – is it different to touring in SA?
The difference is that when we sing in South Africa, the people sing with us – they join in. In Europe, the people enjoy the music very much and they sit and listen which gives us time to enjoy the music.

Do people in Europe ever get up and dance?Yes, very much so.

Image: Luis Leal

Tour dates and details:






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