World renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo finds joy in performing at home
The national tour aims to reconnect the ensemble with local audiences and also celebrate their legacy.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform at the Joburg Theatre. Photo by Siya Meyiwa
“A prophet is honoured everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family,” Christ tells his disciples in the gospel of Mark.
The love at home
“It makes us happy to perform here at home. When performing here at home, you see it when we start singing one of our songs, it could be Nomathemba or whichever song, the people will join in and sing with you,” Albert Mazibuko tells The Citizen.
Mazibuko has been part of Ladysmith Black Mamabazo since its inception in the 1960s when Joseph Shabalala founded the group.
“When we perform overseas, the audience will listen attentively and not show any reaction but what’s shocking is that at the end of the performance, they will give us a round of applause and even a standing ovation,” adds Mazibuko.
“South Africa has showed us support since the beginning,” says Mazibuko. He reminisces on the days when the group would drive from KZN to Gauteng for performances without knowing where they will sleep after the show. You’d find that while we’re promoting the show in the townships, someone would ask if we have a place to sleep…and they would offer us a place in their homes.”
The Citizen sat with the 74 year-old and Sibongiseni Shabalala, one of Joseph’s four sons in the group, ahead of their opening night performance at the Joburg Theatre.
The Legacy tour
This national tour will also see them perform at Durban’s Playhouse from the 26th of September till the 1st of October. Cape Town’s Artscape hosts them from 14 – 19 November, and in December they will be at Pretoria’s State Theatre from the 15th to 17th.
Having the tour start now in May is quite significant, as it’s Africa Month.
“We planned this since last year, that when we start this tour it should be on Africa month,” says Shabalala.
Swathed in dashikis, black pants, snow white sneakers accompanied by blood-red socks, the group performed on Wednesday night to a filled Joburg Theatre. They sang crowd favourites such as Homeless and Hello My Baby to a receptive audience that joined in the singing and dancing.
“It’s the first time I see them and I’m glad they’ve given us this year as South Africans because they travel everywhere. They even said it, from next year, they will be all over the world, so this is a rare moment for us to enjoy them. They don’t age, they look like they’re still in their 20s. For me [what stood out] is the love they receive from South Africans, for me that was just amazing,” radio host David Mashabela tells The Citizen after the show.
Developing young artists
Four years ago, the legendary ensemble launched the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Mobile Academy which discovers and develops young aspiring groups who sing isicathamiya and indigenous music. This was Joseph Shabalala’s dream, to build a school in Ladysmith that will develop these aspirant musicians. “Because that dream (of building a school) is yet to be fulfilled, we thought we should rather launch a Ladysmith Black Mambazo Mobile Academy, where we go to all South African provinces to identify talent and teach young people about knowing your roots and who you are,” shares Shabalala.
Two groups they’ve discovered have already toured with Ladysmith Black Black Mambazo on its international outings. Each night of the South African tour we will have a surprise act that will perform during Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s set.
They will be performing at the Joburg Theatre until Sunday 28 May.