(Meaning: Ladysmith name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; Mambazo Zulu word for axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to chop down any singing rival who might challenge them.)Drawing on their heritage, the group performs a traditional music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-ya), developed in the mines of South Africa and perfectly marries it to Christian gospel music for a perfect harmony, that penetrates the soul and raises the spirits.The message of the music is to "bring the gospel of loving one another all over the world," says Joseph Shabalala. "Without hearing the lyrics, this music gets into the blood because it comes from the blood. It invokes enthusiasm and excitement regardless of what you follow spiritually," Shabalala says.Originally created in the early 1960s by Shabalala, a young farmboy turned factory worker during a time of extreme oppression, the music and its message is intended to raise the spirits, no matter what is happening in life.After more than 30 years of recording, tragedy struck.
In 2002, Joseph’s wife, Nellie was murdered by a masked gunman outside their church in South Africa.Track 13 on this spiritual journey is a Tribute to Nellie, composed by her teenage grandsons.Shabalala offers a message of hope for better times for all the world.In 1987, Ladysmith won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for Shaka Zulu, produced by Paul Simon. The group has won six more Grammy nominations.Ladysmith has recorded with Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, the Wynans, George Clinton. Their work includes an appearance in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker video, Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America and James Earl Jones’ Cry the Beloved Country. They have also been featured in a documentary titled On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, which was nominated for an Academy Award.Keeping in the tradition of successful works chosen by Heads Up productions, this CD is a welcome addition to the HEADS UP AFRICA series.