Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a male choral group from South Africa whose main style of music is ‘Isicathamiya’ meaning ‘to walk or step on one’s toes lightly’. This African traditional music was born in the mines of South Africa. These workers were paid horribly but sang and danced for entertainment. They had to dance quietly in order to disturb the guards, thus the name. Ladysmith Black Mambazo incorporates this meaning into their choreography when performing. (1) (3)
When they were first starting out in Johannesburg, they used to compete in a capella competitions in small local venues. Apartheid’s strict segregation policy made it so that the judges were all white, which skewed the results of the competitions’ outcome. They were noticed more because of their mix of traditionally based music and major themes of love and equality. When they record in the studio their main goal is to preserve the traditional musical heritage of South Africa. With an a capella spin off of a mixture between Isicathamiya and Zulu, their music prospered in South Africa. (2)
With the help of Paul Simon, the group rose to fame due to a widespread liking of Mambazo’s Zulu harmonies. Their first album released in the United States won a Grammy in 2987. Much of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s success come from the fact that they stuck to their roots. Their music prospered in South Africa because it was the type of music that did not really go against apartheid. During apartheid, the government strictly enforced ‘traditional’ music. The strong Zulu influence was in accord with what the government enforced, leading to Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s music being acceptable. This shows a different side to how music became popular during apartheid: popularity not through campaigning against apartheid, but by strongly sticking to and incorporating African tradition. (3)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Homeless
(1) “Ladysmith Black Mambazo.” African Music Encyclopedia. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://africanmusic.org/artists/ladysmith.html>.
(2) “Profile: Ladysmith Black Mambazo.” Welcome to The Official Site of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.mambazo.com/profile.php>.
(3) “Artist Biography | Ladysmith Black Mambazo Biography.” Songs | Most Popular. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://artists.letssingit.com/ladysmith-black-mambazo-jxshm/biography>.
(4) “Homeless.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. 25 Dec. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp3pPFjH_Sg>.