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August 8, 2014

How Ladysmith Black Mambazo turned into ballet dancers

The Guardian (UK):

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the veteran South African singing group, have collaborated with half the known music world – everyone from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton to, most famously, Paul Simon on his classic 1988 album Graceland. But this year, the choir may be performing the most extraordinary project of their 50-year career: a contemporary dance production called Inala in which they not only sing the 15 or so new songs woven into its score, but also dance alongside its cast of classical and contemporary dancers.

The seed was sown five years ago, when two young British women went to watch LBM, as they're widely known, during a UK tour. Ella Spira, a composer, had loved them since childhood. The history of oppression and suffering embodied in their lyrics, as well as the haunting harmonic textures of their music (derived from migrant Zulu workers), had always moved her. "It's that wall of sound they make," she says. "It just hits you here, in your chest."

Her friend Pietra Mello-Pittman, a dancer with the Royal Ballet, was equally overwhelmed by LBM's music, but found the production values of their performance surprisingly old-fashioned. "I suppose I've got used to the fabulous spectacle we put on at the [Royal] Opera House. But the show's visuals looked to me as though they hadn't changed in 50 years. That made me think how fantastic it would be to create some kind of ballet around the Ladysmiths and have Ella compose the score."

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Posted by acapnews at August 8, 2014 12:00 AM

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