It was an absolute honor and pleasure to see this iconic group of musicians play such a humble venue. They were not only baffling to listen to, they were visually astounding. Dressed in brightly colored shirts, dark pants and white shoes, they danced around in unison and improvisationally in the most entertaining way. They were well rehearsed, full of energy and had a great sense of humor.
Those not familiar with the group might recognize them from the highly respected Paul Simon album, Graceland, among a plethora of other widely recognized artists. More info on the band can be found in an interview with NYS Music and one of the founding members, Albert Mazibuko. Listeners can appreciate the beauty of the music for themselves by finding their copious amount of music available for download on their website, iTunes and Spotify.
The group consisted of mostly replacement members and only two members that were with the original group. Taking the place of founding member Joseph Shabalala, were his two sons, Thamsanqa Shabalala and Sibongiseni Shabalala, who were a perfect fit for the group as it moved into it’s sixth decade. Other members included close and extended family, all of whom did an immaculate job.
Unfortunately, Ladysmith already made their rounds through New York and Connecticut, but they are always touring and will undoubtedly run through the tri-state area again soon.
Their music wasn’t really the most fascinating part of the show, though. Although it was more than impressive, their presence and personalities made it the extravagant performance that it was. At first, it was almost uncanny how close they sounded to their studio recordings. But what was more astounding was they didn’t need to listen to the key of the song they were going to sing. They just dove right into it and all nine of them were all in sync and on the same key. It goes to show how well rehearsed and passionate they are about about their music as well as what it represents. Some amount of improvisation was used in terms of their singing and dances. The rest of the group would vamp over the chorus while members would take turns stepping forward to center stage and show off some moves. They would perform both native dances as well as some modern and comical moves coming from the younger members.
They mostly performed songs from their most recent album, Walking In the Footsteps of Our Fathers which they described as a celebration of the group’s past present and future. They said it is a way for the future group to honor the paved path made by their predecessors. They featured many of their own popular recordings like “Awu Wemadoda, “King of Kings” and “Long Walk to Freedom” as well as some of their most popular songs like “Homeless, and the intro to “Diamonds In the Soles of Her Shoes,” both of which were written alongside Paul Simon. Preceding the songs, members would tell a quick story or explanation behind the creative process and meaning of the songs. These stories clearly gave the audience a better understanding of the songs as well as the visuals performed by all members. The show was stimulating to almost all of the sense and is definitely something everyone should experience in their lifetime.