Ladysmith Black Mambazo Ilembe - Our Tribute to King Shaka Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

12 new tracks after 40 previous albums is probably about 10 too many.

Guy Hayden 2007

Everyone knows the lush, warm, glorious harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, don't they? Even if just from hearing them so exquisitely on Paul Simon's Graceland which brought them to the wider public or, later, on soup ads on TV, Ladysmith have become an institution and in many ways are now the voice of a nation. No other artist from South Africa or the Zulu nation have ever had such a widespread appeal and recognition - very few artists from any country are so intimately identified with their own country. In 1993 Nelson Mandela ensured that they were invited to perform at the award of his Nobel Peace Prize and then again a year later at his historical Presidential inauguration - a very real and powerful sign that their country had changed forever and that they really were the voice of their nation. For Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as well as the nation as a whole, this was a landmark that proclaimed loudly that the long-surprised traditions that they embodied were never to be hidden away again.

Founder and lead-singer, Joseph Shabalala, has claimed that the style of singing that they employ - a mix of Christian choirs and Zulu chants to create a unique harmony - came to him in a dream. Having spent years involved in the ‘Isicathamiya’ style of singing that came out of the mines of South Africa, it took his insight to see that he could marry the two to create a new sound. This sound has now carried them through over 40 releases, over 30 years and several times around the world.

And yet...sure, this is another lovely album - like slipping into a warm bath it is at the same time relaxing and enveloping - but is that really all there is? For those that love the band - and there are many - this is all that they need. But for the rest of us, for those of us that like to be challenged, excited, moved by music there just seems to be only so much loveliness that we can take and in truth unless you are a real fan, 12 new tracks after 40 previous albums is probably about 10 too many.

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