Numerous Grammy winners have graced the stage of the Community Concert Hall, but it's arguable that tonight's Grammy-winning performers have traveled the farthest, and perhaps been around the longest of any Grammy-winning artists who have taken the hall's stage.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African vocal group that has been in existence since 1960, has been nominated for 13 Grammy's and has won three: in 1988 for Best Traditional Folk Recording, and in 2005 and 2009 for Best Traditional World Music Album. The group's 2009 award was for the U.S. surround-sound reissue of its "Ilembe."
Ladysmith has grown into more than a group since it was formed by Joseph Shabalala in South Africa 48 years ago. Because of Paul Simon, who recruited it for his 1985 release "Graceland," the group has become an international treasure and a well-respected name within the music industry.
"Here comes Paul Simon in 1985 and we got a lot more exposure," said vocalist Albert Mazibuko before a show in Illinois. "We call him the one who opened the big gate. He was our rocket that took us places."
In addition to Albert Mazibuko, who is an original member, the group is Joseph Shabalala (founder and music director), Thamsanqa Shabalala, Sibongiseni Shabalala, Thulani Shabalala, Msizi Shabalala, Abednego Mazibuko and Russel Mthembu.
Like most bands that have tenure as long as Ladysmith Black Mambazo's, the members never looked ahead when they began.
"We never thought it would be this long, and it would be this big," said Albert Mazibuko. "We were just believing in ourselves, that if we can encourage people in our country, that they can't lose hope and they can live up to good expectations."
The band members are proud of where they come from, which is evident in the group's name.
"Ladysmith is our hometown, Black refers to the black oxen because we grew up in the farm using that animal to plow the land and the black oxen is very powerful," said Albert Mazibuko. "Mambazo is the chopping axe. It's a very important tool for chopping the trees and building your house. With the ax, you pave your way."
The band has made its way with its music and now come across as ambassadors of South Africa, which is what members have tried to do.
"With our voices, we wanted to pave the way and build our future, and with black we want to be powerful with our voices and Ladysmith so we don't forget where we came from," said Albert Mazibuko.
Liggettb@fortlewis.eduBryant Liggett is a freelance writer and general manager of KDUR.