Twenty-six years ago an American folk singer released what became a monster album. Paul Simon’s Graceland won a Grammy for 1986 Album of the Year, and is included on many “Best Of” lists from Rolling Stone to Time.

Graceland was an eclectic mix musical styles including pop, rock, and a capella, plus the South African sounds of isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Y), developed in the mines, and mbaqanga, developed in the 1960s from rural Zulu roots. The worldwide success of Graceland put the talents of previously unknown black South African musicians on the global cultural map, especially the vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whom Simon met on a visit to South Africa earlier in the 1980s.

Part of the Live at the Palm series and in conjunction with KOTOfm community radio, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs tracks from their latest recording, Songs from A Zulu Farm, recently nominated for a Grammy. The concert is scheduled to take place Friday, January 27, 7 p.m. This very special show is partially underwritten by Telluride locals Peter and Linda Bynoe.

“Linda and I saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo when they toured the USA with Paul Simon over a quarter of a century ago,” explained Peter. “Thought their visit to town should be embraced and supported.”

For over 40 years, the voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo have married the intricate rhythms and harmonies of South African musical traditions to the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel. The result: musical and spiritual alchemy that has touched a global audience.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo came together in Durban, South Africa, in the early 1960s through the efforts of farm boy-turned-factory worker Joseph Shabalala, who still leads the group. The name is a mash-up of disparate elements: “Ladysmith” is Shabalala’s backwater hometown. “Black” is a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals. Mambazo is Zulu  for axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to chop down any rivals for the spotlight.

In addition to their work with Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded with numerous other musical icons including Stevie Wonder, Josh Groban, Dolly Parton, and Ben Harper. The group’s film work includes an appearance in Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” video and Spike Lee’s “Do It A Cappella.” They provided soundtrack material for Disney’s “The Lion King, Part II,” as well as Eddie Murphy’s “Coming To America,” Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” Marlon Brando’s “A Dry White Season,” Sean Connery’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and James Earl Jones’ “Cry The Beloved Country.”

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has performed by special request before Nelson Mandala, Queen Elizabeth of England,– twice – Pope John II. They have appeared at Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies and the Olympics. Now Lady Blacksmith Mambozo appears in Telluride.

Songs From A Zulu Farm is particularly important to group members because the older singers like Shabalala were born and raised on farms outside Ladysmith. The collection of original and traditional songs tells of farm life.

“Your roots are who you are,” says Shabalala.

To preview Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s sound, watch their videos.

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