Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs
Friday, June 11, at Hop Porter Park in Hailey.
Tiptoeing with Ladysmith Black Mambazo
A cappella group sings in Hailey
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
Who’s to say why some music turns us on
and some simply does not? Many people just want music that’s appropriate for
simply sitting back and becoming lost. Other types want to feel their heart
strings tugged; some look for witty lyrics. Then there’s the kind of music that
can bring out the toe-tapping hip-moving groove in all of us. And who doesn’t
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one such music
making group. This South African a cappella group, made up of nine men many from
the same family, will be presented in concert Friday, June 11 at Hop Porter Park
in Hailey. The Sun Valley Center for Arts is offering the event as part of its
Summer Concert Series.
Formed by Joseph Shabalala in the
mid-1950s, the group’s name comes from his hometown of Ladysmith, the strong
black oxen found on farms and the Zulu word for ax, Mambazo. This last is
symbolic of the group's ability to "chop down" the opposition in the singing
competitions they entered. After years of cutting down those competitors, the
group was forbidden to enter at all. Moving on, they recorded their first album
in 1970. Since then they have released over 40 albums and have sold over 6
The music came from traditional Zulu
singing called Isicathamiya. Born in the South African mines after long days
underground, the miners called themselves Cothoza Mfana or "tip toe guys." While
they sang, they also danced—soft and slight in movement—in a way that would not
disturb the mining camp security guards.
While Shabalala’s group thrived at home,
they were little known off the continent until someone passed on to Paul Simon a
bootleg cassette with some African bands recorded on it.
Impressed by the tight bass, alto and
tenor harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Simon recorded with their input in
the 1986 album "Graceland." This album is considered a seminal reason for the
continued explosion of interest in World Music.
Since then the band has gone on to win a
Grammy Award in 1987 for Best Traditional Folk Album, plus six additional Grammy
Award nominations, including one in 2001 for the album "Live From Royal Albert
As well, "On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps To
Freedom," a documentary on Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo was
nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Documentary Film in 2001. It was
also nominated for an Emmy Award in 2002 for Best Cultural Documentary.
They have performed at two Nobel Prize
ceremonies, for kings and queens, the Pope, at the Summer Olympics and in
countless other venues.
Now it’s the Wood River Valley’s turn.
Live, they are a wonder to behold, mesmerizing, stunning in sound and delightful
to share time with.
Tickets for this show are available at the
Sun Valley Center: $18 for adults and $5 for children. The show is at 7 p.m.
Picnics, blankets and chairs are highly encouraged.