Mambazo Rocks the House

January 25, 2011, 8:00 PM HST · Updated January 29, 2:15 AM
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by Maesyn

During intermission, the crowded lawn at the MACC was full of euphoric, cheerful angels, veritably floating off the ground.

The enthusiasm was tangible at Tuesday night’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert.

file photo

With a buzz that rendered mana a subtlety, this show was being talked about all over the island for weeks before the big night.

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Audience members could be heard humming as they quickly filed back into the theater.

The lights went down to reveal the empty stage, a dozen microphones in a row, with one mic directly in front.

With standing room only, the packed house came to a hush. Twelve beautiful African men skipped and hopped playfully onto the stage, wearing brightly colored yellow tunics. Dressed and dancing in modern traditional Zulu style.

The bandleader, Joseph Shabalala took the front microphone and began chanting a short Zulu poem.

Suddenly, a cloud of sound burst forth from behind him, a wall of impeccable harmonies. They repeated the chant he had sung.

From there, the choir chanted that poem over and over, in a hypnotic, trance inducing manner, while Joseph laid various clucks, percussive sounds, and vocal acrobatics over the top of the bed of harmony.

It was a sight to behold. These musicians were so culturally different from Americans, yet so accessible. It didn’t matter that the words could not be understood (though they did explain the translations before each song).

Each song cut straight to the heart. They came from the motherland, and everyone in the audience spoke that language.

Throughout each chant, each member took turns coming to the front of the stage to do a unique expression of dance (often involving high kicks and other seemingly traditional African moves). They clapped. They stomped. They did a highly entertaining, and often amusing amount of simple choreography.

There was something so pure and soulful and hilarious about their bright white sneakers tapping in complicated patterns, hands raising up to the sky in synchronicity… It was beautiful.

The audience went wild after every song, laughing and cheering as the individual singers took their moment in the spotlight.

It was impeccable. It was without pretension. It was music. It was life’s sacred celebration.

The highlight of the show was their stirring rendition of “Homeless,” a song they recorded on Paul Simon’s epic “Graceland” album.

They were met with a standing ovation.

Without a doubt, everyone left the Castle Theater tonight feeling healed by the power of sound. Feeling awed by the power of the collective functioning as a whole, while featuring individuality at the same time.

It was a metaphor for life. That alone we are unique and wonderful and valuable. But that together, we are magical.

Harmony. That is where the healing and the power lie.

May we all live in harmony, and shine our unique light.

Let it be known that Ladysmith Black Mambazo rocked the house tonight, and carried a theater full of Mauians into a land without time or race or nationality or separation.

Aho! Aloha!

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