Designated by Nelson Mandela as “South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the World,” the all-male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo brings a powerful message of peace, love, and harmony to every performance through traditional song and dance. The group will be the featured performers on Tuesday, Feb. 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Weaver Chapel as the 2018-2019 Wittenberg Series continues.
Founded in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala, the group is named for its founder’s hometown of Ladysmith. “Black” refers to the black oxen, the strongest of all farm animals, and “Mambazo” is the Zulu word for chopping axe, which symbolizes the group’s vocal ability to clear the path to success.
Earning its first record contract in 1970, Ladysmith Black Mambazo went on to become the most successful singing group in South Africa. The group’s collaboration with singer and songwriter Paul Simon on his 1986 album, Graceland, introduced audiences to the traditional music style and brought the group international recognition.
Today, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs across the globe. With a discography of more than 70 albums, the group has earned 19 Grammy Award nominations and five Grammy Awards, including Best World Music Album of 2017 for Shaka Zulu Revisited.
The group performs a Zulu singing style called isicathamiya and a tip-toe dance style, both of which originated in the South African mines. Black mine workers, who were not only underpaid but far away from their homes and families, entertained themselves by singing. When the traditional Zulu stomping dance was forbidden in the mines, the tip-toe dance style evolved.
While entertaining its audiences and preserving a musical tradition, Ladysmith Black Mambazo also seeks to promote its mission of “singing for peace around the world.” During the time of apartheid, Shabalala wrote songs of hope and peace for the group to perform in peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, who listened to its music during his imprisonment, invited Ladysmith Black Mambazo to perform at his 1993 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and again at his 1994 inauguration as president of South Africa.
In addition to recording with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, and Melissa Etheridge, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has provided music for the soundtracks of The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, Invictus, and Coming to America.
Now in its 36th year, the Wittenberg Series brings distinguished lecturers and performing artists of national and international prominence to the Wittenberg campus and Springfield community. To make special arrangements, request a Series poster, or become a friend of the Wittenberg Series, contact Lisa Watson at WatsonL4@wittenberg.edu. All Wittenberg Series events are free and open to the public. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the beginning of each lecture or performance. Below are further details related to this year’s Series.
2018-2019 Wittenberg Series Events:
Wednesday, March 13, 2019: William A. Kinnison Endowed Lecture in History, 7:30 p.m., Bayley Auditorium, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Fenn on “Sacagawea’s Capture and the History of the Early West.”
Wednesday, March 27, 2019: IBM Endowed Lecture in the Sciences, 7:30 p.m., Bayley Auditorium, featuring John Dovidio, author, Yale psychology professor, and leading researcher on aversive racism. Colloquium, 4 p.m., Bayley Auditorium.
For more information on the Wittenberg Series, click here.