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Ladysmith Black Mambazo Brings Sound of South Africa to UGA’s Hodgson Concert Hall


“Theirs is among the most distinctive and uplifting choral sounds around.”—NPR


More than sixty years ago, a young South African man, Joseph Shabalala, had persistent dreams involving the sweetest choral singing. He was inspired to give his own vocal group a new approach and a new name: Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Today, sons of the late Shabalala and their cousins anchor the five-time Grammy-winning group. Ladysmith Black Mambazo appears at Hodgson Concert Hall on Leap Day, Thursday, February 29th at 7:30 p.m.

The group sings a traditional music style calledisicathamiya (Is-Cot-A-Mee-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa. It was there that Black workers were taken to work far away from their homes and families. Poorly housed and paid, the mine workers would entertain themselves, after a six-day work week, by singing songs into the wee hours on Saturday night and Sunday. When the miners returned to their homes, this musical tradition returned with them.

During the dark years of South African apartheid, Ladysmith Black Mambazo followed a path of peaceful protest through songs of hope and love. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he said that Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s music was a powerful message of peace that he listened to while in jail. When Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1993, he asked the group to join him at the ceremony. It was Mandela who called Ladysmith Black Mambazo “South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the World.”

In the mid-1980s, American singer/songwriter Paul Simon famously visited South Africa and incorporated the group's rich harmonies into his renowned Graceland album — a landmark recording considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. This brought the group to the attention of music lovers all over the world, the beginning of a global musical career that shows no sign of ending.

After leading his group for more than fifty years and approaching his seventy-fifth birthday, Joseph Shabalala retired in 2014, handing the leadership to his three sons, Thulani, Sibongiseni and Thamsanqa Shabalala. Having joined their father’s group in 1993, their many years of training had prepared them in ways no others could be trained. Now, carrying their father’s dream into the future, the Shabalala family continues the group’s success for the world to hear.



Join us for a free pre-performance talk in Ramsey Concert Hall from 6:45-7:15 pm.



Ian Russell Hardin and Carol Alice McKay

Carlton Bain and Dr. William Tzu-Wei Huang



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