Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Stoke-on-Trent, 25.10.07

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31 Oct 2007, 22:43

Thu 25 Oct – Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Like a great many people, I first heard of Ladysmith when Paul Simon 'discovered' them when he recorded Graceland. They have since pretty much become legendary as ambassadors for the culture of South Africa. This was certainly an event that was both thought-provoking and very entertaining. The concert was opened by their guest
Vusi Mahlasela, whose acoustic performance was fantastic. The tour programme summed up his style as "a hybrid of folk, world, blues and soul", and I think that's pretty close! He spoke about his life during apartheid in South Africa and of the spirit of the people, and as he spoke I realised that he is only 5 years older than I am, which was a sobering thought as I remembered the ease of my own childhood. His latest album Guiding Star will I think soon be heading into our collection.

Ladysmith's performance was great to experience. Singing completely acapella, all of the rhythms and harmonies provided by their voices, and each song was introduced with a little history, again speaking of their homeland and the people. Occasional mentions of the recent rugby victory over England were met with good humour, and a singing competition between the audience and the group was generously awarded to us, although I don't think they have anything to worry about in that department! It was great to hear them perform the song
Homeless
after so many years, having had a copy of Graceland since it came out way back in 1986, it's a beautiful piece of music combined with though-provoking subject matter, and sounds as good now as it did then. Vusi Mahlasela came back onstage to perform "Heaven In My Heart" which features Ladysmith on backing vocals, which they duly provided - he also joined them for one of their songs and they all obviously had a great time!

We really appreciated the chance to see such a legendary group in Stoke - so few bands stop by here these days, and I'm really grateful to Ladysmith for having taken the time to bless us with this show. I wish them all the best for their continuing ambassadorial tour. If you get the chance to go see them live, make the most of it & go!

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