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South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to return to IU Auditorium



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Members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African male choral group, will perform at 7 p.m. March 10 at the IU Auditorium. Courtesy Photo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African male choral group, will share their voices with IU at 7 p.m. March 10 in the IU Auditorium.

The main goal of the group, which was founded in 1960 by the late Joseph Shabalala, has been to preserve traditional Zulu music styles Isicathamiya and Mbube. Each style can be described as an a cappella vocal performance, according to the group's website.

The nine-member ensemble was formed during apartheid-era South Africa and continued throughout periods of resistance. Member Albert Mazibuko said that the group’s music is performed to create unity and inspired many during the 20th century. Its name is derived from both the group's South African hometown of Ladysmith and the Zulu language. 

“Our music has been encouraging people to not lose hope,” Mazibuko said. “When Nelson Mandela came out of jail and we met him for the first time he said, ‘Your music has given me hope that someday in South Africa we will be free.’” 

The group incorporates high-energy levels in its live performances. The group have appeared on Broadway and “The Tonight Show," and received five Grammy. 

“When we are on stage, that’s when we summon all of the happiness in life,” Mazibuko said. “We say, ‘Okay, let’s be happy that we’re alive and then try to make this world a better place to live in.’” 

Mazibuko, 71, is the longest-standing member of the group. He joined in 1969 upon Shabalala’s request. 

“The music and the style haven’t changed,” Mazibuko said. “Joseph’s teaching, no one has it, and that’s why we said that we are going to stick with it.”

Shabalala died Feb. 11 at age 78. He retired from the group in 2014. Many of the musicians left during its current tour to visit South Africa following his death. Several performance dates were rescheduled.

“We were very fortunate to be able to go back home to say goodbye to him,” Mazibuko said. “We honored him by being there and we will continue honoring him by taking his teachings to the people as he wanted.” 

In continuation of their father’s legacy, four of Shabalala’s sons, Sibongseni, Thamsanqa, Thulani and Msizi, are current members of the group.

The group plans on carrying on Shabalala’s dream of educating South African youth through the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Foundation. The organization is in the process of creating The Mambazo Academy for South African Music and Culture to pass on traditional South African music styles.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo last performed at IU in 2009. Auditorium managing director Maria Talbert said the auditorium was excited to welcome the group back to Bloomington.

“When they last visited here, the audience raved about their experience,” Talbert said. “When the opportunity presented itself to bring them back as part of our season celebrating IU’s Bicentennial, we jumped on the chance.”

Mazibuko said he is excited to return to performing with the group following its brief break to honor its founder.

“I hope after hearing our music people will be motivated,” Mazibuko said. “We are so looking forward to being there again. It’s a happy place to be when you see that the people love music.”

Tickets can be purchased at IU Auditorium’s website and the auditorium box office, and start at $15 for students and $23 for general admission.

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