Arts & Culture
6:09 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Brings A Cappella South African Sound to Milwaukee

They say music can bridge cultures and languages, and even bring harmony among discord. Ladysmith Black Mambazo can vouch for that.

The internationally renowned, South African all-male a cappella singing group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, will perform in Milwaukee on Thursday.
The internationally renowned, South African all-male a cappella singing group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, will perform in Milwaukee on Thursday.

Over the last few decades, the internationally renowned South African all-male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo has seen a lot of history made - and made a lot of its own.

The group's Albert Mazibuko says the singers had a close-up view of how a culture of intolerance can change.  When the group formed in early 1960s South Africa, they played to a predominantly black audience – officially separated from the rest of the population by Apartheid laws.

But things began to change in the mid-1980s, when Paul Simon called on the group to perform on his remarkable “Graceland” album.  And in the 1990s, Apartheid ended, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo was front and center as cultural ambassadors of the new South Africa. They gained audiences around the world, won several Grammy Awards, and still tour to this day.

Albert Mazibuko of choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.
Albert Mazibuko of choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.
Credit Mitch Teich

Mazibuko has been with the group since 1969 and longer than anyone except founder Joseph Shabalala. He remembers well how he felt the night the group sang at the ceremony where Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize.

"When you sing for these people, it was on our mind, it was that we have conquered the world by coming here to receive this peace prize because our country will be a peaceful country," he says.

Ladysmith Black Mumbazo plays tonight in Evanston, Ill., and tomorrow at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.