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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2006

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Returns To Hancher March 4

Ladysmith Black Mambazo will bring their unmistakable South African sound back to the University of Iowa for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, in Hancher Auditorium.

A Hancher Café dinner will precede the concert. Seating is limited and advance reservations are required. The menu will reflect the diverse cuisine of South Africa, the "Rainbow Nation."

A great deal has happened in the remarkable international career of Ladysmith Black Mambazo since the vocal group's most recent Hancher performance in 1998. The March 4 concert comes on the heels of the group's latest CD release, "Long Walk to Freedom," which features guest artists including Melissa Etheridge, Emmy Lou Harris, Hugh Masakela, Taj Mahal, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Zap Mama. The CD features new recordings of songs that trace the 30-year history of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The group won a 2005 Grammy Award for best traditional world music album, for "Raise Your Spirits Higher," and it was nominated again in 2006, this time in the best contemporary world music album, for "No Boundaries," recorded with the strings of the English Chamber Orchestra.

In the summer of 2002 the group was asked to represent their nation in London for a celebration for Queen Elizabeth II's 50th Anniversary as monarch.  Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined with Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins and Sir Paul McCartney on the Beatles songs "Hey Jude" and "All You Need Is Love."

"On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps To Freedom," a documentary film about founder Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Documentary Film in 2001 as well as nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Cultural Documentary on American television.

And in 1999 Heinz Beans UK used a Mambazo song for a television advertisement that was so popular, it helped the group's CD at that time sell more than one million copies.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been in existence since the 1960s and it began recording in the 1970s, but it became an international sensation after American singer and composer Paul Simon became acquainted with the group in the 1980s and introduced them to the wider world on his "Graceland" recording.

Simon also produced the first Ladysmith Black Mambazo recording released in the United States, "Shaka Zulu," which won the 1987 Grammy Award for best traditional folk recording. That began a period of eight years in which Ladysmith Black Mambazo received five Grammy nominations. Shabalala has given Simon the Zulu name Vulindela, which means "he who has opened the gate."

Other artists who have recorded with Ladysmith Black Mambazo include Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Ben Harper, the Wynans and George Clinton, and the group's film work includes Disney's "The Lion King," Michael Jackson's "Moonwalker" and Spike Lee's "Do It A  Cappella." They provided soundtracks for Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America," Marlon Brando's "A Dry White Season," James Earl Jones' "Cry the Beloved Country" and Sean Connery's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen".

They have appeared in numerous commercials in addition to the Heinz sensation, winning CLIO Awards for their advertisements for 7-Up and Lifesavers candy.

They were featured in the play "The Song of Jacob Zulu," which opened on Broadway in 1993 and was nominated for six Tony Awards. The group was nominated for Best Music for a Play, and they won the Drama Desk Award for Best Original Score. Later, their music for "Nomathemba" won Chicago's highest theater honor, the Jefferson Award, for Best Musical Score. In 1996 that play sold out a four-week run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The ensemble sings in a traditional style called "isicathamiya," which was originated in the mines of South Africa. Black workers were taken by rail to mines far from their homes. Poorly housed and paid, they would entertain themselves after a six-day work week by singing songs into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

They referred to themselves as "cothoza mfana" or "tip-toe guys," referring to dance steps choreographed as to avoid disturbing the camp security guards. The miners took their music back to their homelands, where it developed further as part of the community traditions.

"Isicathamiya" became a fierce social competition, held regularly and the highlight of everyone's social calendar. The winners were awarded a goat for their efforts, as well as the adoration of their fans. These competitions are still held in YMCA assembly halls and church basements.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo received their name because of their unequaled record in the competitions. "Black" makes reference to black oxen, considered to be the strongest on the farm. And "Mambazo" is a Zulu word for "ax," referring to the singer's ability to "chop down" the competition. They were so accomplished that eventually they were forbidden to enter competitions, although they were still welcome to attend and sing.

A radio broadcast in 1970 brought their first recording contract. Since that time they have become the number one recording group in Africa.

Since their collaborations with Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has come to represent, more than any other artist or group, the traditional culture of South Africa. They have come to be regarded as South Africa's cultural ambassadors, both in their homeland and around the world.

In December of 1993, at Nelson Mandela's request, the group accompanied the future president and President F.W. de Klerk to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. They sang again at Mandela's inauguration as president of South Africa.

Other highlights of their earlier international career included a command performance for the Queen of England, two concerts at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and  numerous tours of Europe, North America and Asia.

Darlene and Michael McNulty are the sponsors of the concert, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for Ladysmith Black Mambazo are $35/32/30; UI students $31.50/15/ senior citizens $31.50/28.80/27; youth $24.50/22.40/21. Dinner tickets are $26.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail:

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

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