Performance Saturday, October 18, 2014 | 8 PM

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Friends

Voices of South Africa

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The voice is the soul of South African music. Few groups have shown this as passionately and joyfully as Ladysmith Black Mambazo. This multiple Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble has toured and recorded with artists around the world. For this concert, they are joined by South African ensembles Thokoza, the Bakithi Kumalo Band, and Shabalala Rhythm, as well as guitarist Maqhinga Radebe.


  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo
  • Thokoza
  • Bakithi Kumalo Band
  • Shabalala Rhythm
  • Maqhinga Radebe
  • and Dave Matthews

Event Duration

The program will last approximately two hours with no intermission.


  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo

    For more than 50 years, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has warmed the hearts of audiences with its uplifting vocal harmonies, signature dance moves, charming onstage banter, and those white tennis shoes. Most recently, the multiple Grammy Award-winning South African a cappella group celebrated the 25th anniversary of its groundbreaking collaboration with Paul Simon on his seminal album Graceland. Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo reunited once more to tour the music of Graceland and to reflect on the legacy of that album in Under African Skies, a documentary prominently featured on PBS.

    In addition to its work with Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with numerous artists from around the world, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, and Melissa Etheridge, among many others. The ensemble's film work includes featured appearances in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and Spike Lee's Do It A Cappella. Ladysmith Black Mambazo also provided soundtrack material for Disney's The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, as well as Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, Marlon Brando's A Dry White Season, Sean Connery's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, James Earl Jones's Cry, the Beloved Country, and Clint Eastwood's Invictus. A film documentary about Ladysmith Black Mambazo titled On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom was nominated for an Academy Award.

    Ladysmith Black Mambazo was assembled in the early 1960s in South Africa by Joseph Shabalala, then a young farm boy turned factory worker. Ladysmith is the name of Joseph's hometown, a small farming area between Durban and Johannesburg; Black is a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo is the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group's ability to "chop down" any singing rival who might challenge them. Their collective voices were so tight and their harmonies so polished that by the end of the 1960s, they were banned from competitions, although they were welcome to participate as entertainers.

    A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to Ladysmith Black Mambazo's first recording contract, marking the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than 50 releases. The group's philosophy in the studio was-and continues to be-just as much about preservation of musical heritage as it is about entertainment. The ensemble sings a traditional music called isicathamiya, which developed in the mines of South Africa where black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning.

    With a deep respect for both its cultural and personal history, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is ever-evolving with an eye toward a long musical legacy. Over the years, the original members have welcomed a younger generation from their families in their mission, passing along the tradition of storytelling and spreading a message of peace, love, and harmony to millions. The newer members, in turn, have infused the group with their youthful energy and the promise of a bright future. Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala looks to these young men and to his sons to carry on his dream to "keep South Africa alive in people's hearts" for years to come.

    More Info

  • Thokoza

    The all-female vocal group Thokoza is the brain child of Thuli Dumakude, a native of Durban, South Africa. Dumakude, who moved to New York City in 1979, has been involved in a number of theatrical, film, and music/dance productions, including Broadway's The Lion King, as well as Umabatha: The Zulu Macbeth and the Denzel Washington film Cry Freedom. She formed Thokoza in 1989, which made its debut in Brooklyn. Thokoza combines the ngoma ebusuku (Zulu night music) vocal style and features a diverse repertoire of older Zulu celebration music, church-influenced songs, exuberant works, and original compositions that speak of the need for social change. The result is a smooth, open choral sound that features precise harmonies, interweaving vocal parts, tilting rhythms, and unmistakably African vocal inflections and ornamentations.

    More Info

  • Bakithi Kumalo

    Bakithi Kumalo is the most famous South African bass player today. He is best known for his work with Paul Simon on the Graceland album, as well as having toured as part of Simon's band since 1988. His bass playing can also be heard on recordings by Josh Groban, Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, Harry Belafonte, and many others. Kumalo was born in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, surrounded by relatives who loved music. He got his first job at the age of seven, filling in for the bass player in his uncle's band. During his teens, Kumalo became one of the most sought after musicians in the Johannesburg area. Due to the Apartheid political system, however, his ability to travel-and that of all black people in South Africa-was limited. Kumalo's opportunities for further recognition were limited, that is until Paul Simon came to South Africa and hired him for the Graceland recording. After that, his life changed dramatically. Now living in the US, Kumalo not only performs with many notable artists, but has formed his own band as well.

    More Info

  • Shabalala Rhythm

    World music comes no finer than that from the Shabalala family of South Africa. Sibongiseni Shabalala, already a vital member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, founded Shabalala Rhythm in 1998. Joined by renowned Durban guitarist Maqhinga Radebe, Shabalala wanted to play maskandi music-a blending of African folk, blues, and township jive. His efforts have brought Shabalala Rhythm a large following in South Africa as well as several nominations at the South African Music Awards (SAMA). His most recent CD, Please Call Me, has his group joined by famous African musician Oliver Mtukudzi. "Growing up in my father's house," Shabalala says, "we always sang during the day. Whenever my father had new songs, he would come to me and my brothers and teach us those songs before he would take them to his group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. When I started writing my own songs, they would come to me in dreams as if my father were teaching me. When I formed Shabalala Rhythm, I didn't know what to name the group. I remember our first performance in Ladysmith-it was seconds before we went on stage and we did not have a name. That is when I realized that I should call the ensemble Shabalala Rhythm in honor of my father, who taught us how to create music."

    More Info

  • Maqhinga Radebe

    Maqhinga Radebe started his music career in the mid-1980s in Durban, South Africa. In 1991, he won the prestigious Ijuba Maskandi competition. Three years later, he met Ladysmith Black Mambazo after he earned a place as the guitarist in the ensemble's new theatrical production Nomathemba produced by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company. Radebe has since performed all over South Africa, sharing stages with such artists as Hugh Masekela, Jabu Khanyile, Phuzekhemisi, Soul Brothers, and Oliver Mtukudzi. In 2004, he recorded his first solo album, Ematekisini.

    More Info


Baba wethu singenile (O Father, we are here)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
2013 Network World

Honoring Voices of South Africa

In 2014, Ladysmith Black Mambazo celebrates more than 50 years of joyous and uplifting music. During that time, the a cappella vocal ensemble has created a musical and spiritual message that has touched a worldwide audience through the intricate rhythms and harmonies of the members’ native South African traditions.

Nelson Mandela, the father of South Africa, passed away on December 5, 2013. His passing, while terribly sad, brings a celebration for a life and message with which Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been connected for many years. Mandela, who bestowed on the group the title of “South African Cultural Ambassadors to the World,” asked Ladysmith Black Mambazo to join him on his 1993 trip to Oslo, Norway, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, he invited the group to perform at the celebration.

“Nelson Mandela has finished his journey,” Ladysmith Black Mambazo said in a statement. “Now, it is left for all of us to carry on his mission. We must continue the journey of making not just South Africa, but the whole world a peaceful, forgiving place. As we continue to spread the message of peace, love, and harmony, we re-dedicate ourselves to Mandela and his dream of a Rainbow Nation and a Rainbow World.”

It is fitting that just more than a month after the passing of Nelson Mandela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo won its fourth Grammy Award for Singing for Peace Around the World. The group dedicated this CD to President Mandela and also dedicated the award to his life and memory.
Program Notes



UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa

Lead funding for UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Mai Family Foundation, South African Tourism, and South African Airways.

UBUNTU is held in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa and the South African Consulate General in New York in celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy.
This performance is part of The Originals, and UBUNTU: Legendary Performers.

Part of