Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Concert Review
For those of us fortunate enough to share Carnegie Hall’s performance of South Africa ’s Ladysmith Black Mombazo a few weeks ago, it was a lovely and heartfelt appearance by a warm and joyful group of amazing vocalists. Having been formed by Joseph Shabalala (then in his 20’s, in 1964), because of a series of recurring dreams he had about a choir singing in perfect harmony, a beautiful sound. He brought younger family members into the group and began to teach them the “dream harmonies” from his nighttime reveries. From these teachings came what was to become their signature song “Nomathemba” (actually a girl’s name meaning “hope”). From here, they entered and won every vocal competition in their native land, but it wasn’t until their collaboration with Paul Simon more than 25 years ago that brought them worldwide recognition and paved the way for international stardom.
It had been several years since Ladysmith had visited Lewisburg, at which time several of us attended a little vocal workshop that was held. I have lovely memories of Shabalala’s young son singing “our” vocal part ever-so-softly in my ear, like a breeze, a warm breeze blowing across the miles from a homeland far away. I carry this memory with me, and have brought it gently into the life I’m living now.
Many of the songs they performed were comfortingly familiar, but they had added several tunes from their newest Grammy-nominated album Songs from a Zulu Farm. They sang about chickens and donkeys, in unison-singing perfection, with nothing more to be desired, their rills and rolls pure as a waterfall, voices lifted heaven-ward like wings lifting toward the sky…It was completely lovely. One song that stays in my mind was called “Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain”, and the words were, “When the sun says goodbye to the mountains, I am dreaming of the sun…say goodnight, when the sun goes down, the birds in the trees are singing sweet for the night..” Universally poetic. They eventually gave the audience a beautiful rendition of “Homeless”, with its refrain of “Homeless, homeless, moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake”, and we were again spellbound. The new album, biography, tour dates, reviews, and even a Zulu glossary can be found on their official website www.mambazo.com .
As I walked out into the night from this endearing evening of music, the rainy snow had begun to mist from the sky, like diamonds in the streetlight. I thought, “From one man’s dreams of beautiful singing cames this blanket of perfect harmony, and the heartbeat of a world 10,000 miles away.” A whisper, a heartbeat, peace and harmony, brotherhood, humor and joy, and a lovely way to spend an evening. Thank you to Carnegie Hall for bringing them to us. For more information about upcoming shows, and for the schedule of the summer’s Ivy Terrace Concert Series, see www.carnegiehallwv.com.