Thamsanqa Shabalala is bravely becoming the face of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a renowned South African a cappella singing group.
Before he hit the stage last Friday for a one-night-only performance in front of a sold-out crowd in Philadephia, Thamsanqa Shabalala, son of Dr. Joseph Shabalala, founder of the Grammy-award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo, sat quietly across the table from me as I asked questions of him and his cousin Albert Mazibuko, who is one of the few remaining original members—Mazibuko has been singing with the Mambazo for about 44 years.
Thami (pronounced Tommy), as he’s called by close friends and family, says his father, who started the world renowned group in the early 60’s after having a series of dream—or “visions,” as Mazibuko puts it—has been preparing him to take over for the last four years—this is the first tour the group has been on without the elder Shabalala, who at age 73 is currently home in South Africa recuperating from back surgery.
Thami tells me although he joined the group at 19, his father, who he proudly claims as his mentor, would teach him the songs as a kid; most times before they were introduced to the group. The young Shabalala—who a year after joining his father’s legacy performed on stage with the late Nelson Mandela—is understandably nervous about taking the reins of one the world’s most famous a cappella groups, as he notes: “these are big shoes to fill.” And although he admits there’s “big pressure,” Thami says “with God nothing is impossible.”
Despite being more than forty years younger than his father, and having his own views on the world, Thami assures me he’s in no rush to change how things work with the famed South African a cappella singing group. Other than entertaining, he says “preserving culture” is his first priority.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, although populated now with a few younger faces, proves to still be on their tip toes, singing at new heights and reaching for higher ground. Now with their fourth Grammy—this time for their new album “Singing for Peace Around the World,” which donates proceeds to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (if purchase from their website)—the more than 50 year old group has started a mobile academy, or “an outdoor cultural arts center,” as Mazibuko calls it, where they teach workshops aimed at “inspiring young people to stick to their roots and not look down on themselves.”
Looking forward to the next fifty years, Thami says:
“I’m hoping that Mambazo stays long because it’s spreading peace all over the world.”
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Source: TBO Inc®
©2014 All Rights Reserved.
(Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2014)