Since their earliest days in the 1960s, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has shared the studio and stage with scores of artists from around the world, representing just about every possible musical genre. The South African a cappella gospel ensemble’s appearance on Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album is probably the most widely-recognized of the group’s cross-cultural collaborations, but Simon’s 1986 Grammy-winning recording is merely the tip of a much larger iceberg. Over the years, the group has demonstrated its melodic, harmonic and rhythmic versatility in recordings with an array of artists representing folk, rock, pop, soul, country, classical, hip-hop and world music. In each case, they have taken the work of a great artist and made it even better.
The group assembled a two-disc set of recordings that capture Ladysmith Black Mambazo reaching across the cultural divide and joining hands with musicians from around the globe. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Friends – set for release on January 10, 2012 (as part of the Listen 2 Africa Series / Razor & Tie) contains 30 tracks featuring the world renowned South African group in collaboration with some of the most esteemed and influential recording artists, choirs and orchestras of the past several decades: Paul Simon, Lucky Dube, Emmylou Harris, Hugh Masekela, Natalie Merchant, The English Chamber Orchestra, Sarah McLachlan, Phoebe Snow, Taj Mahal and many more.
“For the past half-century, we have used our music to promote goodwill, cultural understanding and spiritual awakening throughout the world,” says Joseph Shabalala, founder of the group. “The fact that we’ve been able to perform and record with some of the most prominent musical voices representing so many different musical styles, so many different countries, so many different cultures, is proof of the unifying power of music. We’re very fortunate to have made so many good friends along the way, and we’re happy to have so many of these recordings with those friends gathered in a single collection.”
Disc 1 of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Friends opens with Mambazo backing Dolly Parton in a simmering but impassioned rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” The track is followed immediately by “Weeping,” a heart-rending ballad featuring Josh Groban and Vusi Mahlesala. Further into the sequence are the African sounding “Homeless” and the more pop-flavored “Diamonds on the Soles of their Shoes,” both recorded with Paul Simon for Graceland.
Other highlights on the first disc include the stirring medley of “Amazing Grace/Nearer My God to Thee,” recorded with Emmylou Harris; the Sam Cooke classic “Chain Gang,” featuring the late velvet-voiced soul singer Lou Rawls; and the rousing “Bread of Heaven (Wales Forever)” with Michael Ball, the Lianelli Male Voice Choir and the Wales Squad Choir.
Disc 2 opens with a reprise of two songs from the first disc: “Homeless,” this time with Sara McLachlen, and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” featuring Melissa Etheridge and Joe McBride recorded originally on the group’s Long Walk To Freedom album.
Other second-half highlights include a part-gospel, part-pop reading of the Curtis Mayfield spiritual, “People Get Ready,” with emotionally charged lead vocals by Phoebe Snow; and the engaging “One Blood,” featuring Mbongeni Ngema
Blues and world music titan Taj Mahal joins the fray by laying down gritty vocals and deft guitar accents atop the hypnotic chant of “Mbube,” while The Golden Gospel Singers join Mambazo in the soaring Staple Singers classic, “I’ll Take You There.”
In the home stretch, the voices of the SABC Choir merge seamlessly with Mambazo in the infectious “Angimboni Ofana Naye,” and the set closes with the “Mamizola,” where the group is joined by its female counterpart, the Women of Mambazo, a parallel vocal group founded in the 1970s by Joseph Shabalala’s late wife, Nellie.
“The many tracks on Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Friends were recorded at many different times throughout our career, in many different places,” says Shabalala. “The thread that ties them all together is the mutual respect and understanding among the musicians on each recording, and the desire to use music as a tool to spread that same respect and understanding to our audiences and around the world. This collection captures the beauty that emerges when Ladysmith Black Mambazo gets together with friends.
|Knocking On Heaven’s Door – with Dolly Parton
|Weeping – with Josh Groban and Vusi Mahlasela
|Homeless – with Paul Simon
|Ain’t No Sunshine – with Des’ree
|Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes – with Paul Simon
|Shosholoza – with Lucky Dube, Hugh Masekela and an all-star cast
|World In Union – with PJ Powers
|Passage To Promise – with Andreas Vollenweider
|Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee – with Emmy Lou Harris
|Chain Gang – with Lou Rawls
|Rain Rain Beautiful Rain – with Natalie Merchant
|Jabulani “Rejoice” – with The English Chamber Orchestra
|Swing Low Sweet Chariot – with China Black
|Bread Of Heaven “Wales Forever” – with Michael Ball, The Linaelli Male Voice Choir
|Dlondlobala Njalo – with Soul Drummers (Mix)
|Homeless – with Sarah McLachlan
|Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes – with Melisa Ethridge and Joe McBride
|Hello My Baby – with Zap Mama
|People Get Ready – with Phoebe Snow
|Abezizwe (Uniting Nations Together) – with D’Influence (REMIX)
|Paradise Road – with Jannie Moolman
|One Blood – with Mbongeni Ngema
|O Happy Day – with Betty Griffin
|River Of Dreams – with Bill Chapin
|Mbube – with Taj Mahal
|I’ll Take You There with – The Golden Gospel Singers
|Inkanyezi Nezazi (Spiral Staircase Remix)
|Sohlabele Hosana – with Nana Coyote Motijoane
|Angimboni Ofana Naye – with The SABC Choir
|Mamizolo with – The Women Of Mambazo