On the South African musical scene since the 1950s, today Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a worldwide traveling institution, an icon of South African culture. While some members were already performing together, officially the group was formed in 1964 by musical director Joseph Shabalala after he had a series of dreams in which he heard the singing style called isicathamiya, traditional to the Zulus. The group entered isicathamiya contests in Durban and Johannesburg, eventually becoming so good that they were barred from competing. Hugely popular, they first recorded in 1973, and the result, Amabutho, went gold, a first for black artists in South Africa. But it was their 1986 collaboration with Paul Simon on his monumental Graceland that brought the group worldwide fame. Since the release of that album, LBM has become a virtual traveling musical circus and classroom, not only singing but promoting South Africa and its culture to the world at large. The multiple Grammy-winning ensemble recently performed Graceland in South Africa with Simon and trumpeter Hugh Masekela for a 25th-anniversary DVD that Simon is including in a box set to be released this spring.
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