Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs Fri., Feb. 29, at Laxson Auditorium. More info:

Unlike many of the group’s other works, Ilembe features only Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with no collaborations with other artists. The album’s title refers to Shaka, who in the 19th century worked to unite several tribes into what is now South Africa. Mambazo is well known for its religious songs, which are present on this album, but more prominent are songs dealing with moral lessons and stories. The group performs a unique harmony of Isicathamiya music, a style native to South African Zulus that contrasts other African a capella styles by focusing on having harmonious blend instead of being loud and defiant. They have incorporated sounds and ideas from an eclectic variety of influences over the years, and several songs on the album are in English. Joseph Shabalala founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960, but the task of leading the all-male a capella group will soon fall to his son, Thamsanqa. This is a landmark album for Mambazo, one that reveres its past, while looking to the future.