World & Latin

VOICES Notes and news on World & Latin releases

Out Of Africa

17 MAR 09 JOHN C. BRUENING

To truly appreciate Ladysmith Black Mambazo, it's best to see as well as hear the South African a cappella group perform. The experience is just as physical as it is musical, as evidenced on the DVD Live!.

Recorded at EJ Thomas Hall in Akron, Ohio, in 2008, it captures the choreography and physical energy of a group that has ascended to iconic status by merging South African music and dance traditions with Christian messages of compassion, love and global harmony.

The 14 songs in the set are compelling not just for their richly layered vocals but for their sheer kinetic energy as well. Beginning with the opener, "Nomathemba," and throughout the subsequent 90 minutes, the nine-man group is almost constantly in motion -- employing everything from simple hand gestures to choreographed leaps, bounds and overhead kicks. Highlights include the thoughtful "Ekulupekeni" and the stirring "Long Walk To Freedom." Capping the performance are two emotionally resonant encores -- "Shosholoza" and a heartfelt medley of two well-known hymns, "Amazing Grace" and "Nearer My God To Thee."

The DVD also includes an interview with leader and founder Joseph Shabalala, who takes the viewer through the history of the group, beginning with his early days in the late 1950s as a South African factory worker with musical aspirations. Other interviews highlight the span of generations within the ranks by introducing the younger members who have joined in recent years.

"Ladysmith Black Mambazo will never end," says longtime member Abednego Azibuko, "because now we have a young generation to follow us. We are very grateful for that." Fans worldwide would likely agree.