The current members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo are:Shabalala, Mazibuko, Mazibuko’s brother Abednego Mazibuko (member since 1974) lifelong family friend Russel Mthembu (member since 1975), after “Graceland” some of the members of the group retired and in 1993 Joseph replaced those members with four of his sons: Msizi Shabalala, Thulani Shabalala, Sibongiseni Shabalala and Thamsanqa Shabalala. Now Joseph’s first grandson, Babuyile Shabalala ,is a part of the group.
“We are one big family! The membership stays very solid. This helps us stay strong,” Mazibuko said.
While singing groups come and go, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has continued to stay strong in its convictions and to the happy music that it so lovingly creates. Mazibuko says that longevity comes from the group’s commitment to its message of peace, love and harmony.
“We don’t allow ourselves to get lazy about what needs to be done to keep our mission going. When we first worked with Paul Simon and went on our own concert tours, everything was handled in a very professional and serious way,” Mazibuko said. “I don’t think people know how many musicians and music groups get destroyed because of a lack of professionalism. We learned to be very serious towards our work.
“When people they want to see us in concert and listen to our CD’s, it makes us work extra hard so they won’t be disappointed. We want people to come to our shows and leave feeling they’ve experienced something wonderful. Then they can tell their friends about us and our music can continue on and on,” Mazibuko added.
In 2013, a collection of live recordings “Ladysmith Black Mambazo Singing for Peace Live Around the World” has been nominated for a Best World Music Grammy Award. The record is dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela and his mission of peace.
“It was a blessing to have Mandela with us as long as we did. He was the leader in bringing us freedom. He sacrificed much of his life for his nation. We will never forget all that he did. Hopefully his message will continue for centuries to inspire people to greatness,” Mazibuko said. “I think our singing helped put a face and name to the people struggling with apartheid. All of the people who became well known from “Graceland” or other things it helped people know better who we all were. We would meet people who would say ‘We must fight to end this so you can live in freedom.’ They were speaking to us as individuals and they wanted us, as individual people, to have the freedoms everyone should have.”
Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s latest effort, “Ladysmith Black Mambazo Always With Us,” which was released earlier this month, pays homage to the late Nellie Shabalala, the group “mother” and wife of the group’s founder and leader. This recording blends the group’s voices with the vocals of Nellie and her church choir. It is Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s in their more than 40-year recording history to feature Zulu singers performing traditional songs.
“The CD is different than anything we’ve ever done. Joseph’s wife was very important to our whole group. Mother, wife, sister-in-law and cousin to everyone. She was the person who kept our families strong while we were away from home. She was a very wonderful person. She ran Joseph’s church while he was gone,” Mazibuko said. “She had her own church group and they recorded some songs in 2000. When she died in 2002, she left a hole in our group.
“We wanted to honor her in some way and finally we found that we could take her recorded songs and we could sing on them. We went into a recording studio and sang right on her songs to create new songs with her being our lead singer. We never had a woman lead singer so the sound was very fresh and beautiful. Now when we listen to the CD, we hear Nellie all the time. It’s magical what music can do for you,” Mazibuko continued.
Mazibuko said the message of “Ladysmith Black Mambazo Always With Us” is to never forget those who have gone and remain important in our lives.
“People effect all of us and when they are gone we should keep their memories and lives close to us to help us when we need that help,” Mazibuko said. “Nellie helps us to this day and we love to honor her life. When you hear Nellie singing you can hear such joy, such love. She shared this love with us while she lived and she continues to share her love even though she is gone.”
Following their performance in Pittsburgh–7:30 p.m. at the Byham Theater on January 29—Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be heading to Ithaca, New York’s state theater before heading to Philadelphia.
Tickets for the Pittsburgh performance start at $24 and can be purchased by visiting www.TrustArts.org or call 412-456-6666.