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January 24, 2020 – Formed by Joseph Shabalala, South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been singing songs of peace since the early 1960s. Shabalala took the name “Ladysmith” from his hometown, which lies in the province of kwaZulu Natal, halfway between the city of Durban (where members of the group live today) and Johannesburg. The word “Black” being a reference to the oxen, the strongest of all farm animals, Joseph’s way of honoring his early life on his family’s farm. “Mambazo” is the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group’s vocal strength, clearing the way for their music and eventual success. 

A radio broadcast in 1970 opened the door to their first record contract – the beginning of an ambitious discography that currently includes more than sixty albums. Their philosophy in the studio was and continues to be just as much about the preservation of musical heritage as it is about entertainment. The group borrows heavily from a traditional music called “isicathamiya” (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), 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. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo established themselves as the most successful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, the American singer/songwriter Paul Simon famously visited South Africa and incorporated the group’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his famous Graceland album – a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. A year later, Paul Simon produced Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s first worldwide release, “Shaka Zulu,” which garnered the group their first GRAMMY Award in 1988, for Best Folk Recording. Since then the group has been awarded three more GRAMMY Awards; Raise Your Spirit Higher (2004), Ilembe (2009) and Singing For Peace Around The World (2013) as well as nineteen GRAMMY Award nominations, more than any other World Music group in the history of the Awards. Currently the group has two new albums nominated; Shaka Zulu Revisited for Best World Music Album and Songs Of PEACE & LOVE For Kids & Parents Around The World for Best Children’s Album.

In addition to their 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, Melissa Etheridge and many others. Their singing voices can be heard in several films including Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” video and Spike Lee’s “Do It A Cappella.” They’ve provided soundtrack material for Disney’s The Lion King, Part II, Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, Marlon Brando’s A Dry White Season, Sean Connery’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, James Earl Jones’ Cry The Beloved Country and Clint Eaastwood’s Invictus. A documentary film called On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, The Story Of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award. They have appeared on Broadway, have been nominated for Tony Awards, and have won a Drama Desk Award.

A favorite of the late great Nelson Mandela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo traveled with the future South African president, at his request, when he went to Oslo, Norway, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. One year later they were singing at the inauguration of the newly elected president. After many more special appearances with the South African icon, Mandela proclaimed the group South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the World. 

In 2014 founder, Joseph Shabalala, retired after over fifty years of leading his group. Joseph passed the leadership torch to his sons Thulani, Sibongiseni, Thamsanqa Shabalala, all who joined Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1993. Joseph’s sons will carry the group into the future for decades to come. The group sings of peace and love and for people to live in harmony. They do so on every album and from every concert stage that they appear on.

The Center for the Arts OnTheGo presents Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Tuesday, February 18, 2020, at the Foothills Event Center.  Doors open at 6:30pm for the 7:30pm show. Tickets are available online at thecenterforthearts.org, at the box office located in the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, and at Briarpatch Coop. 

WHAT:  Ladysmith Black Mambazo
WHEN: Tuesday, February 18th – Doors 6:30 | Show 7:30
WHERE: Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley, CA
WHO: Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa)
ADMISSION: $40-$50 Members, $45 – $55 Regular http://bit.ly/200218-mambazo 

PUBLIC CONTACT INFO: thecenterforthearts.org 530-274-8384.


Since 2000, The Center for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization, has grown into a leading presenter of music, dance, theater, comedy, literary and visual art, and family programming. Typically, the Center presents more than 150 events per year from its location in downtown Grass Valley. The Center is currently underway in a major renovation of its multiuse 21,000 square foot facility in downtown Grass Valley. After the renovation, the Center will have a 490 seat main theater, a large visual art gallery, classroom space, and a 90-seat black box theater. For more information about the renovation, please reach out to The Center’s Executive Director, Amber Jo Manuel.