Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the revered South African vocal group, are set to release their latest album, Songs From A Zulu Farm. The album comprises a cornucopia of songs that older members of the group would have heard and sung themselves as kids growing up on Zulu farms in the 1940s and 1950s.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo are more than simply a singing group; over the course of half a century, they have become legends of the international stage, and of world culture – a powerful and unique musical emblem of freedom and celebration whose first performances date back to an incredible 52 years.
Founder and group leader Joseph Shabalala, grew up on a white-owned farm near the town of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, what was once the heart of the Zulu kingdom, and left in 1958 to find work in nearby Durban, where he joined a choir before setting up his own group, The Black Ones, in 1960, inspired by the vocal tradition of acapella isicathamiya singing, a style that originated among South Africa’s black miner workers transported far from their homes to work six-day weeks. On the seventh day, they sang.
By 1964, following a series of dreams and regular success in local singing competitions, Shabalala renamed the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo – the latter word meaning ‘axe’, after their ability to cut down the competition. Their first album appeared in the early 1970s, the first of a catalogue that encompasses more than 50 recordings, but it was their role in Paul Simon’s Graceland in 1986 that finally brought them to the global stage, with platinum sales, three Grammy awards and 15 nominations to follow in an extraordinary career that has seen them work with artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton and Taj Mahal.
Today, the group spearheads a foundation to teach the tradition of isicathamiya to young South Africans, and continues to record and perform all over the world. With Songs From A Zulu Farm, it’s to their childhoods, their homeland, and to a world of innocence and joy, that they return with an album that dwells on their roots and native traditions.
Songs From A Zulu Farm is the first of a trilogy of albums that sing of the group’s life experiences in South Africa, taking listeners back to the ways of life and nature of group members who were born and raised on the farms outside of Ladysmith.
This collection of original and traditional songs that sing of life on the farm coincides with a world tour including a 26-date UK tour in May and June.
Songs From a Zulu Farm by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is released by Proper on 7th February.