The group was created in South Africa in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala and is now led by his four sons. Mambazo is the Zulu word for chopping ax, a symbol of the group’s vocal strength, clearing the way for their music and success. The group sings from a traditional music style called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa. Poorly housed and paid, the mineworkers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning.
The Five-time Grammy Award-winning group is a fan favorite among children and adults alike as well as the late Nelson Mandela who requested Ladysmith Black Mambazo to travel with him to receive his Nobel Peace Prize. After the group sang at Mandela’s inauguration and several special appearances, Mandela proclaimed the group South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the World.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has collaborated with numerous artists including CAP UCLA alum Emmylou Harris. They have provided music for many movies, have appeared on Broadway and even had a documentary film, On Tip Toe: The Story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, nominated for an Academy Award.
UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) presents Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Thursday, Feb 20 at 8 p.m. at Royce Hall. Tickets starting at $28 are available at cap.ucla.edu and the Royce Hall box office.