Joseph Shabalala

COMPOSERS: Joseph Shabalala
ALBUM TITLE: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
WORKS: Ilembe
PERFORMER: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
After a somewhat iffy orchestral collaboration, Africa’s most recognisable vocal group comes up fresh with what it had always done best: singing unaccompanied.


The gospel-meets-old-Africa sound, its own fusion of two disparate traditions, makes its way through another 11 songs composed and produced by veteran leader Joseph Shabalala, punctuated as usual by assorted grunts, clicks and whispers. Three-chord repeated cadences, lightly worn counterpoints, speech rhythms and swaying dances, even an alternative version of one song without its rain effects: the range of textures is virtuosic, even more so the whole sequence’s gradual build of energy and tempo. Nothing so novel that every collection must have it, but fans or beginners can proceed with confidence.Robert Maycock