Ladysmith Black Mambazo - “Songs From a Zulu Farm”

Tagged with: Ladysmith Black Mambazo Zulu South Africa Africa Songs from a Zulu Farm Proper Joseph Shabalala isicathamiya CD Review world music

 Ladysmith Black Mambazo - “Songs From a Zulu Farm”

(Proper Records - PASS007)

CD Review

"international reputation for vocal excellence"

Africa’s most famous choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo maintain their international reputation for vocal excellence with this latest album: “Songs From a Zulu Farm” (released 7th February 2011 in UK).

It is possibly their most personal album to date, as the group’s founder Joseph Shabalala takes us back to the farms and natural world of his childhood to sing songs learnt at his grandparents’ knees in the KwaZulu-Natal of the 40s and 50s - “a world of innocence of joy”.

If you’re already familiar with LBM (and it’s hard to imagine anyone either within the world music scene or even in the mainstream that hasn’t heard their music at some point over the last 50 years) then you’ll know what to expect and you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re young enough not to have heard them then you can look forward to rich traditional Zulu songs, lush harmonies, breathy vocals, clicks and whirs and zummms and that peculiar ability that Ladysmith Black Mambazo possess - to transport your spirit to the hills and plains of South Africa.

"undulating rhythmic phrases that push and pull ... harmonising that is both ethereal and earthy"

The Ladysmiths work purely in the South African ‘isicathamiya’ acapella style mixing undulating rhythmic phrases that push and pull underneath the lead melodic lines, with harmonising that is both ethereal and earthy at the same time. This is music that is both great to play on your computer whilst working (the voices and rhythms seem to massage your soul - very calming indeed), as well as to get up and dance around your living room and for a moment imagine yourself swaying through the warmth and wide open vistas around this musical Zulu farm. This is a very natural album, both in sound and spirit. The band supply most of the sounds of farm life too (listen for the clucking chickens!).

"the voices and rhythms seem to massage your soul"

The album’s title gives away the central theme of the album and this is backed up by the names of tracks such as “The Biting Chicken”, “Bad Donkey”, “Praise the Cows and Bulls”, “Away You River Snakes” and “Wake Up Little Chicks”; and besides troublesome fowl and serpents the songs reflect upon other aspects of country life: teenagers that want to leave the farm and their families, magic to encourage crops, exhortations for the clouds to move out of the way of the sun, the tale of an ugly bird that thinks she’s beautiful, the power of thunder, the sound of children playing in puddles, and Joseph Shabalala’s homage to roots and home and identity.

And to round it all off? What else but the world’s favourite agricultural song: “Old McDonald Had a Farm - Zulu Style”! Trust me, you won’t have heard it like this before.

This is to be the first in a series of three albums dealing with the band’s journey through life.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be touring the album in the UK: 19th May - 26th June 2011.

Catch them while you can!

Glyn Phillips