“E.J. Thomas Hall was alive with the sounds of South Africa Wednesday, Jan. 30 when Ladysmith Black Mambazo came roaring into Akron. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an eight-member a cappella vocal group, is regarded as South Africa’s cultural emissaries. The group’s goal is to raise consciousness of the country from which they come and also spread the message of Peace, Love, and Harmony.””
E.J. Thomas Hall was alive with the sounds of South Africa Wednesday, Jan. 30 when Ladysmith Black Mambazo came roaring into Akron.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an eight-member a cappella vocal group, is regarded as South Africa’s cultural emissaries.
The group’s goal is to raise consciousness of the country from which they come and also spread the message of Peace, Love, and Harmony.
The traditional music they perform, called Isicathamiya, was born in the mines of South Africa by oppressed slave workers to entertain themselves and lift their spirits.
Ladysmith’s founder, Joseph Shabalala, perfected his group’s sound in 1964 and they have since become a Grammy-winning worldwide success.
The set presented at Akron was a practice in contrast.
The rather bare stage, decorated only by a tapestry of African woven rugs against a black curtain, set the perfect backdrop for the bright garments and enthusiastic dancing of the group.
The deep, soulful voices of some members mingled harmoniously with the light, airy voices of the others, creating a sound that reverberated around the nearly full auditorium.
Performing songs from throughout the group’s 43 year history, Ladysmith Black Mambazo wove a colorful tale of African tradition and history.
Lighter fare included selections that covered stages across the spectrum of love, from the feelings at the beginning of a new relationship in the song Hello My Baby to a young man trying to prove to his lady that he is ready for a commitment.
Special numbers of the evening included This is the Way We Do performed by Shabalala’s youngest son Thamsanqa, Homeless, a song on which Shabalala collaborated with Paul Simon, and a rendition of Amazing Grace that ended the show.
The most powerful song of the night, Long Walk to Freedom, dealt with the discrimination and suffering of the South African people as democracy developed within the country.
The song also praises South Africa for its success with lyrics such as well done, well done, you did a good job, and congratulations South Africa.
Audience participation was encouraged as well, with a competition of sorts being held after intermission to see if the audience could sing and clap louder than Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Throughout every song, a set of dance moves were choreographed to correspond with the lyrics. However, it was not uncommon to see a member or two get caught up in the power of the music and randomly let go with a dance move all their own.
The members of Ladysmith appeared to have fun with every song and with each other on stage.
The energy of Ladysmith Black Mambazo never faded the entire evening but rather seemed to increase with every song.
The words and messages presented not only resounded throughout the hall but within the hearts and minds of the audience.