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Ladysmith Black Mambazo charms their Joburg fans


Grammy Award-winning isicathamiya and imbube group Ladysmith Black Mambazo had their fans screaming for more during the second of their two scintillating shows at a packed Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein on Sunday afternoon.

The show, in celebration of the group’s 52 years in the music business, was one the highlights of the City of Johannesburg’s three-week-long International Arts Alive Festival, which got off to a flying start with a Jazz on the Lake gig at Zoo Lake, Parktown, on Sunday September 4.

The group, with 30 albums under its belt, may have a few new faces in its midst as some of the original members are departing the scene as a result of advancing age, but the outfit has not lost its class or allure. The audience at the Joburg Theatre went into a frenzy as soon as the group – led by Thamsanqa Shabalala, the energetic youngest son of the now-retired group founder and music icon Joseph Shabalala – took to the stage.

So began an afternoon filled with song and dance as the inimitable globe-trotting South African musical phenomenon took fans down memory lane, unleashing hit after hit in a flawless and flowing performance that has made them an international powerhouse and South African musical ambassadors over the past five decades. The younger Shabalala led the group in style with his mesmerising voice and spectacular dance moves that had the crowds in stitches.

Not only was the audience dazzled by the group, it also became involved. The rendition of all-time favourites such as Lelo Lungelo Ngelakho, Homeless and Hello My Baby drew endless rounds of ululations from the appreciative crowd as others sang along. As the show drew to a close, the theatre reverberated to chants of: “We want more; we want more!” And the legendary group duly obliged, ending their world-class performance with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace from their album, In Harmony, which was released in 1999.

The captivating performance showed why Ladysmith Black Mambazo – winners of four Grammy Awards, three South African Music Awards and two Drama Desk Awards – are one of the country’s most successful musical groups. The two shows at the weekend were a fitting and perfect celebration of the group’s incredible milestone.