Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Live!

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo
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Music is, for all intents and purposes, a listening experience—one that is enhanced when accompanied by something visual. The South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo delivers visually as well as aurally with Live!, a concert DVD recorded in 2008 at E.J. Thomas Hall at the University of Akron (Ohio).

Ladysmith gets that part of its name from the South African town where founder Joseph Shabalala hails from. The Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble mixes traditional South African sounds with Christian messages of compassion, love and global harmony. In addition to their own recordings, these voices have been heard with Paul Simon, in Disney's The Lion King II and even on commercials for Life Savers candy.

The DVD opens with a brief look at the group before the performance, showing a physical warmup and a prayer circle. Hearing this group is one thing, but seeing them is quite different. They perform without instrumental accompaniment, which makes their choreography and vocal timing even more impressive.

"Nomathemba," one of the group's more beautiful songs, opens the set. The vocals are complemented by well-designed hand gestures and perfectly synchronized foot tapping. Later in the song, the group incorporates more moves, thus assuring the viewer's complete attention.

The group engages in some humorous call-and-response with the audience during "Thulanhliziyo." First, a soloist comes out and teaches the audience parts of the song. During its performance, a highlight occurs when he holds a note for nine seconds before going into a series of syllables, then challenges the audience to do the same. After teaching more of the song, he and the audience begin to sing the number as the rest of the group falls in line behind him. At the end of the song, the group stops singing while the audience holds a long note.

Other songs presented include "Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa)," "Rain Rain Beautiful Rain," "Homeless" and the encore medley of "Amazing Grace/Nearer My God to Thee." The DVD also features interviews with Shabalala and other members of Ladysmith, who talk about South Africa and the group's history.

Tracks: Nomathemba; This Is the Way We Do (Ekuhlupekeri); Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa); Hello My Baby; Nginethemba; Thulanhliziyo; Makoti; Rain Rain Beautiful Rain; Homeless; Wentomb'unecala.

Joseph Shabalala: lead vocals; Albert Mazibuko: vocals; Msizi Shabalala: vocals; Sibongiseni Shabalala: vocals; Thamsanga Shabalala: vocals; Thulani Shabalala: vocals; Russel Mthembu: vocals; Abednego Mazibuko: vocals; Mfanafuthi Diamini: vocals.

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