Ladysmith Black Mambazo: No Boundaries (2005)
Sonically stunning, No Boundaries is a brave experiment in the dissolution of one culture in another that is only modestly successful. Ladysmith alone or the English Chamber Orchestra alone would work well, but more often than not, together they are unconvincing, a genre stretching effort (ill) conceived in the boardroom and not the studio. Where the listener would hope for a eutectoid relationship like that between jazz and Latin music, South African and European traditions create a micelle association with an African core and a European outer layer that results in confusion and distraction.
Where this disc works are in the Joseph Shabalala compositions, most particularly those with Paul Simon: "Homeless and "Amazing Grace, the latter being the most beautiful piece on the disc and the most effective in melding two visions. Also, Shabalala's efforts with Isak Roux ("Dona Nobis Pacem, "Ngingenwe Emoyeni, and "Umzuzu Nayi Ujesu ) possess and express the South African musical spirit in spite of the orchestral accompaniment. This is the art for which LBM is known.
Where this disc does not work is in the adapted classical pieces. Isak Roux makes a valiant effort to adapt Bach, Mozart, and Schubert, but came up rather short. These efforts result in the same predicament that (Western tradition) holiday music finds itself when interpreted through a cultural screen that is too foreign (a Celtic "White Christmas" for instance). I am confident that these adaptations will please many listeners. They leave this writer wanting more of what I experienced on Raise Your Spirit Higher.
Regardless of my quibbles, there is still much to enjoy here. Doubtlessly, this disc will be enthusiastically received by Ladysmith Black Mambazo fans, as well it should be. For the uninitiated: this is not the place to start your LBM journey.
Track Listing: 1. Jabulani; Rejoice; 2. Homeless; 3. Awu Wemadoda; 4. Amazing Grace; 5. Dona Nobis Pacem; 6. Ngingenwe Emoyeni (Wind of the Spirit of God); 7. Umzuzu Nayi Ujesu; 8. Jesu, Joy of Man's; Desiring 9. Sanctus (Heilig, Heilig, Heilig); 10. Ave Verum Corpus; 11. Lifikile Ivangeli; 12. Walil' Umtwana (The Child Is Crying); 13. Walil' Umtwana.
Personnel: Joseph Shabalala; Msizi Shabalala; Russel Mthembu; Albert Mazibuko; Jabulani Dubazana; Thulani Shabalala; Thamsanqa Shabalala; Sibongiseni Shabalala; Jockey Shabalala; Abednego Mazibuko