Ladysmith Black Mambazo were formed back in 1960 by the same guy who leads them now - Joseph Shabalala - but they were brought to international fame in 1986 when they worked with Paul Simon on his album 'Gracelands'. Those of you in the UK may also know their music from the old Heinz baked beans ads on telly.
I love their music and have done ever since I first heard them, but I've always had a love of traditional African music or music based upon traditional African music. The close harmonies are fantastic, and sometimes a little unexpected; when they perform live LBM perform without instruments so musical texture is produced entirely through voice; the performances are always vibrant and energy-packed, with an awful lot of the guys kicking their height, something I haven't been able to do for years, but even Mr Shabalala can do it and he's probably about 70 years old now!
The tour Ladysmith Black Mambazo are doing at the moment is promoting their new album, 'Songs From a Zulu Farm', which they describe as 'Taking the many songs and stories of their youth and adding new lyrics.' Of course, they did some of their older songs known by the audience as well, but much of their performance on Sunday was taken from the new album.
Just before the penultimate song they said that we might recognise what they were about to sing, and that if we did then we should join in. No doubt about it, the audience did all recognise the song. It was 'Old MacDonald had a farm' :o) Okay, as a largely British audience we didn't know it in Zulu, which is what LBM sang it in, but a chicken sounds pretty much like a chicken whichever part of the world you come from, so we duly sang along ... and some of us even did the actions. How many concerts have you been to where a couple of thousand adults sing 'Old MacDonald had a farm' whilst flapping their arms like a chicken? No, I didn't think it'd be many ;o)
Here are a couple more photos of LBM...
The bloke on the far right of the last photo is Muntu Valdo.
He was the support act. I'd never heard of him before (though isn't that often the way with support acts?), but really liked his stuff. He was very different from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, in both style and presentation, and it took a while for him to relax and engage with the audience, but once he did he was great. It was just him and his guitar, but he mixed sound on stage, building up layers of guitar lines and/or vocal lines so that it sounded as though he was playing with a group or with a backing CD. Actually, the point at which he really seemed to relax was when he told us about his on-stage mixing and demonstrated it. From that moment on he talked to us a lot more and had us joining in singing and clapping.
The whole evening was wonderful, and reminded me of how much I love to do these things; how much I love engaging with life and making it happen. In keeping with the spirit of making life happen, I booked another concert today, this time at to see Nigel Kennedy at Newcastle City Hall. Nigel Kennedy is very different again from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, but I have a rather eclectic taste in music and I'm greatly looking forward to this concert as well, although it's not until September. There's a lot of life to make happen before then.