Mambazo are still strong, 55 years on

Isicathaniya music may not enjoy much airtime on television and radio, but Grammy-award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo maintain that the genre has a bright future.

Mambazo, as the group is affectionately known, are among the pioneers of isicathamiya music and have taken the sound to international stages.

Mambazo have also collaborated with international stars and won four Grammy Awards. It is for these reasons that the group will celebrate 55 years of existence with a performance at Gold Reef City on Thursday.

It's a pity the group will celebrate the milestone without the founder, Joseph Shabalala, due to health reasons.

According to Thulani Shabalala, one of the founder's sons in the current line-up of the group, his father is still recuperating from a back surgery.

"Due to the operation, my father cannot travel long distances sitting. He trie[d] when we performed in Durban, but he is not supposed to.

"But this does not mean he has retired," Thulani says.

 

Thamsanqa, another one of Shabalala's sons who have replaced other original members, says the group is looking forward to performing in front of a home crowd.

"It is always a pleasure to perform at home. We know that South Africans love and support us. It is through this support that we won these accolades."

The group believes that isicathamiya music will never perish because young people are showing interest in it. Thulani says they have noticed that isicathamiya music is alive and well in schools.

"We are pleased to see that young people are keen to keep the genre alive," he says.

"Last week, we performed in Nigeria. We were welcomed by five young boys singing our songs.

"We get the same when we visit Europe."

Thulani says lack of television airplay negatively affects growth of the music genre. He says many people are not aware that isicathamiya genre is growing because groups are not seen on TV.

Looking beyond 55 years, the group plans to contribute to the growth of isicathamiya and to work harder to achieve more. Thulani says there is room for improvement, but the group is not willing to lose its originality.

The group says winning Grammy awards has put it under pressure to work harder and make sure it ups its game.

"Winning those awards compels us to work even harder and [to] always [be] on point. This has pushed us to forever rehearsing our music, whether the group has a performance or not."

bambalelep@sowetan.co.za

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