Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Led by co-founder and front man Joseph Shabalala, the South African singing sensation Ladysmith Black Mambazo didn’t have any instrumental back-up when they rolled into The Egg last month.
In fact, they have never had any non-singing musicians backing their group, except when they have performed or recorded with their musical “friends.”
Well, their friends include a broad spectrum of musical cross-genre heavy hitters – Josh Groban, Des’ Ree, Lucky Dube, Dolly Parton, PJ Powers, Lou Rawls, Emmylou Harris, Natalie Merchant, Taj Mahal, Sara McLachlan and the late Phoebe Snow, among many others.
Check out the group’s 2-CD set of collaborations, “Ladysmith Black Mambazo And Friends,” released in 2012, to hear the depth and scope of their collective vocal talents in different musical contexts ranging from country music all the way to rock.
However, it is their “best musical friend” Paul Simon that catapulted them into the world’s embrace when he brought in their superb multi-vocal harmonies and complex African rhythms to his 1986 blockbuster album, “Graceland.”
It’s not by chance that almost every film or TV program dealing with Africa (National Geographic, Discovery Channel, etc.) since then has featured their captivating a cappella sound.
With a 45-year history and three Grammy Awards to their credit, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has incorporated over two generations of singers in their ranks.
This time out in the Hart Theatre at The Egg, proud father Joseph Shabalala, featured his four sons individually or collectively. The acorn never falls far from the tree, as the saying goes, and the proof was in the pudding, as far as the Shabalalas were concerned.
The more than 800 fans in attendance were transported to South Africa and treated to a lovely program full of the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music sung in the Zulu language.