Photo by Lulis Leal

Photo by Lulis Leal


In a career that spans over 50 years, South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo has garnered multiple GRAMMY® awards, nominations and critical acclaim, and continues to sell out concerts in prestigious venues worldwide. Reviewing a recent performance at Carnegie Hall, Jon Pareles of The New York Times noted a distinctly Zulu quality of the group’s songs when he described them as “music that had survived sorrows to find benedictions in the aftermath.” The group’s forthcoming album, Always With Us (January 15), exemplifies this spiritual dimension, paying tribute to Nellie Shabalala, the late wife of Black Mambazo founder-leader Joseph Shabalala, by making a fully-produced cycle of songs featuring their own voices alongside vocals she recorded before her death in 2002.

The raw material for Always With Us is a collection of songs Nellie recorded with her own singing group from the township church she and her husband founded. Joseph and his fellow singers have spent several years mixing their vocals with Nellie’s to create all new songs. The result is a collection of ten hauntingly beautiful recordings in which Nellie is rejoined with her husband and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It is the first album in their over forty year recording history to feature female Zulu vocalists singing traditional songs.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded Always With Us over several sessions in 2011 and 2012. Once they finished recording their own vocals, the meticulous task of bridging the decade long gap between Nellie’s recordings and the new takes, made all the more difficult by the fact that no more than simple edits could be done to the originals, took several years. Because honoring the memory of Nellie was critical, Black Mambazo would not allow the album’s release until they felt the quality was such that it stood as a worthy tribute to the group’s matriarch. Joseph Shabalala says, “It was important for us to not just record these songs, but to create beautiful music. From the first day we worked with Nellie’s recordings to the final day when we new we were finished, our primary objective was to make a collection of beautiful songs. I know we have done this and we are proud to present this CD for the world to listen to.”

Last Updated: December 4, 2013


Ron Gaskill