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February 7, 2004

INTERVIEW

MLive

Albert Mazibuko of South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo can see the good in everything. He's even looking forward to the cold of a Michigan winter when the group plays at Grand Rapids' Calvin College on Thursday. When he spoke during a recent interview he had just arrived in Chicago, where at the time temperatures were in the teens, from South Africa, where temps were in the upper 80s.

"It's cold, but I enjoy the cold weather because at home it's too hot," Mazibuko said with sincerity. "The music is coming from above, and coming from the blood," Mazibuko said. "That's why we don't need translation for the words -- the music speaks for us." Mazibuko has been with Ladysmith since Shabalala formed the group in 1965. South Africa is now celebrating the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid, and Mazibuko remembers with pride how the group bore witness to one of the pivotal points of historic change. There are still problems. This year, South Africa is gearing up for national elections to be held in the spring, and there have been some incidents of election-related violence. "People are running around, politicians are campaigning, promising people what they are going to do," Mazibuko said. "Otherwise, things are very good."

Unfortunately, crime is rampant in the country. Nellie Shabalala, Joseph Shabalala's wife of 30 years, was shot by a masked gunman outside their church in 2002. Though Nellie "was the backbone of the music," the group refused to succumb to anger. "We realized that music and singing can give you a power that you don't even know is within you," Mazibuko said.

The group, which also includes sons and grandsons of the Shabalalas, sang at the memorial service. "It was a very sad day, but as we sang we felt the strength come back to us," Mazibuko said. "We could see the hope in our hearts and the feeling that life must go on." One has to raise up, he said. "You have to be above your problems." Mazibuko said that in Zulu tradition singing is the way to transcend one's problems. "We know that the singing in our culture has been our inspiration all the time. I remember when I was a young boy working on the farm, there was a time when things were so tough, but we would just sing and everything would become lighter."

Now there are younger members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, singers who never had to work on the farm and barely remember apartheid. They brought some new energy to the group, Mazibuko said, and even managed to get a bit of hip-hop on the new CD. That's fine with Mazibuko. "What we would like to share with the whole world is just to show people that if I am old, I can work with the young. The old men can bring the wisdom, and the young can bring the energy and the new ideas. You put that together and it can accomplish great things in the world," he said.

Posted by acapnews at February 7, 2004 8:32 AM

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