Maui Arts & Entertainment

Stir Up Some South African Soul

January 20, 2011, 11:32 PM HST
* Updated January 21, 12:53 AM
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by Maesyn

Oh, that rhythm! Oh, that soul! Dripping from every perfect note.

The music of Africa resonates within each of us, whether we have visited the heartland of humanity or only dreamed of it.

This Tuesday, January 25th at 7:30 PM, the Maui Arts and Cultural Center welcomes Ladysmith Black Mambazo, cultural musical ambassadors of South Africa, and world famous missionaries of the global heartsong.


Perhaps most famous for the sweet soaring harmonies that laced Paul Simon’s epic “Graceland” with magic, this collective of Zulu brothers have become world famous for their unique breed of a capella that takes the listener right to the roots. They were the first group to popularize the concept of world music on a global front.


Melding the playful rhythmic intricacies of Africa with the swooping melodic and harmonic influences of Christian gospel music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo brings crowds to their feet in joyful celebration of life through song.

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The group was founded in the 1960’s by its current leader, Joseph Shabalala. He was a common farmboy who labored in the factories until one night when he heard the music in a dream. He put together an impeccable collage of resonant tenors and bass voices. Since then they have recorded over fifty albums, been nominated for fifteen Grammies, and won three (most recently in 2009).

In 1987, a year after “Graceland” swept the Grammies, Paul Simon produced their first globally released album, “Shaka Zulu.” It won the Grammy Award for best Traditional Folk Album.


In 1993 they accompanied Nelson Mandela to share song as he received his Nobel Peace Prize, and then performed again at his inauguration.

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo is widely recognized as the pinnacle in harmonic perfection. They have recorded with many world famous musicians, including Stevie Wonder, Josh Groban, Dolly Parton, and Ben Harper. Their performance with Paul Simon on Sesame Street is legendary and is cited as one of the top three requested Sesame Street segments in history.

Clearly having infiltrated global consciousness, the troupe shows no sign of slowing down, decades after they first splashed onto the grid. This is due to the fact that they are simply living their joy. Spreading peace love and harmony through music, all around the world.

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Although their message is influenced by Christian principles and gospel, their music is not caged by religious dogma. It is a pure celebration of life. “Without hearing the lyrics, this music gets into the blood, because it comes from the blood,” Joseph says. “It evokes enthusiasm and excitement, regardless of what you follow spiritually.”

Their intention in the studio is about the preservation of musical cultural heritage as well as entertainment.

The style of Ladysmith Black Mumbaza is based heavily on Isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), a traditional chant which developed in the mines of South Africa. Workers were paid minimally and subjected to awful conditions far from home. They would entertain themselves by singing songs in harmony in call and response format with complex interweaving harmonies.

This style returned home from the mines and was embedded in the consciousness of South African expression.

You can experience the musical magic this Tuesday at the MACC’s Castle Theater.

Tickets are $12, $28, and $38 and are available at the box office or online at

* If you’d like to suggest an event or artist for Maui Now to profile in the Arts & Entertainment section, please email [email protected]

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