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Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Sanders Theatre

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With the power of gospel and the precision of Broadway, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the undisputed king of mbube, South African a cappella singing. The group came together in the early 1960s and continues to thrill audiences around the world with its strong, proud melodies harmonized in layers of call and response.

In 2017, Ladysmith Black Mambazo released two albums that were both nominated for GRAMMY Awards, a first for a world music group. Songs of PEACE & LOVE for Kids & Parents Around The World was nominated for Best Children's Album. It is very important to the group that their message of peace and love be passed from generation to generation. By recording songs of peace that parents can teach their children, the group hopes to continue this message for decades to come. Their second album of 2017, Shaka Zulu Revisited, was nominated for Best World Music Album.

It is with the deepest gratitude that the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo accept these nominations, which mark their 18th & 19th GRAMMY Award nominations during the past 30 years. Ladysmith Black Mambazo has received GRAMMY Awards four times: in 1988, 2004, 2009, and 2013.

The traditional music sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is called isicathamiya and was born in the mines of South Africa in the 1930s. Black workers were taken to mines far away from their families and after a hard six-day work week, the migrants relied on traditions from their rural homelands to keep their spirits alive. A mainstay was the Saturday night singing competition in which male choirs would challenge each other in camp meeting halls. The workers called themselves Cothoza Mfana - "tip toe guys" - a challenge to the performers' ability to practice their dance steps at night without disturbing the camp guards. When the miners returned to their homelands, the tradition returned with them. It soon became a fierce social competition and the highlight of everyone's social calendar.  

Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo took Cothoza Mfana to new heights and soon were forbidden to join the singing competitions entirely. Ladysmith Black Mambazo's name literally means the "Black Axe of Ladysmith," a title the group earned in the 1970s by consistently mowing down rival groups at the competitions throughout South Africa.  

First brought into the international spotlight by Paul Simon's 1987 Graceland tour, Ladysmith Black Mambazo remain one of Africa's most acclaimed artistic groups. With a career that has spanned 50 years, Ladysmith has recorded 40+ albums and sold more than six million records. Its first US album, Shaka Zulu, won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then, Ladysmith has won an additional four Grammy Awards (1988, 2004, 2009, & 2013) and has received a total of 19 Grammy Award nominations. The group has also appeared on numerous television programs and on broadway and their music can be heard in several films including Disney's The Lion King. The film documentary titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps To Freedom, the Story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo was nominated for an Academy Award.

The members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo are regarded as South Africa's cultural emissaries at home and around the world. By special invitation from South African President Nelson Mandela, they performed for the Queen of England and the Royal Family at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The group has also performed at two Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies, South African Presidential inaugurations, the 1996 Summer Olympics, a Muhammad Ali television special, music award shows from around the world, and many other special events. In the summer of 2002, Ladysmith was again asked to represent its nation in London at a celebration for Queen Elizabeth's 50th anniversary as monarch. The group shared the stage with Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Phil Collins.

In 2014, Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder Joseph Shabalala retired, handing his four sons, who joined the group in 1993, the role of joint leaders. With the passing of his torch, Joseph's son's honor their father and other members of the original group, who have retired or passed away.


World Music/CRASHarts presents Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Sunday, February 11, 3pm at Sanders Theater, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge. Tickets are $48, $37, $32, and $28, reserved seating. For tickets and information call World Music/CRASHarts at (617) 876-4275 or buy online at www.WorldMusic.org.


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