Singing for Peace Around the World. The group was founded in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala, then a teenage farm boy living on the lands just outside the small town of Ladysmith, South Africa. Joseph incorporated the town into the name he would give his group to honor his family history. As well, the word Black is a reference to the black oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo, the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. So began the fifty plus year career of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Their early ability won so many awards, at the local South African competitions, that by the end of the 1960’s the group was banned from competing. However they were always invited to attend as entertainers.
The group sings from a traditional music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa. It was there that black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the wee hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo carries a message of Peace, Love and Harmony as they travel the world year after year. They bring this message, in song and dance, to every theater they perform in.