1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Homeless – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Homeless - Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Homeless – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Yes, yes, you all know this one from Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album, but there are versions of the song floating around that don’t feature the “outside” American vocals on the track. However, listening to the two versions, there is very little to choose between the two as the whole driving force of the song (which was mostly written by Simon) are the whoops, the “he-ee ihe-ee ihe-ee”’s and the beautiful harmonies of the kings of isicathamiya.

It is debatable whether the world would have ever got to hear this style of singing had it not been for Paul Simon’s boycott busting trip to SA. And one could go further and ask how many white South Africans would have got to love songs like these had the one half of Simon & Garfunkel not visited our fair shores, but without going into the politics of it all, one can say without too many arguments that the world would have been a poorer place musically speaking, had ‘Graceland’ not happened.

‘Homeless’ is full of African imagery and the clicks and sounds of the continent. It evokes images of beauty and vast countrysides unpoilt by man. The Mambazo’s harmonies are immediately recognizable these days especially Joseph Shabalala’s unique voice and many will point to ‘Homeless’ when asked where they first heard this voice. In some ways it is sad that it took a white American to bring this music to the world (and white South Africa’s) attention, it should have been able to get there on its own steam, but we’ll be dragged into the ugly world of politics if we persue that line of thinking and ‘Homeless’ is too pure, too innocent and just downright beautiful to be tainted by those sort of discusions.

So grab your copy of ‘Graceland’ (surely you must have one), or better still seek out the Simonless version and enjoy music that revels in naked talent without intruments getting in the way. This is the real deal. So, all together now: “Homeless, homeless, moonlight sleeping on the midnight lake.”

Where to find it:
The Great South African Trip – Various Artists (2007), African Cream


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2 thoughts on “Homeless – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

  1. We all know the meaning of “heimwee”, a beautiful word that expresses our longing for the place of our birth… it is true that I felt that emotion when I first bought Paul Simon’s ground-breaking “Graceland” on a cassette a long time ago.
    Once I had listened to every track on it (before he suddenly veered to the sounds of the Mississippi) I was transported to HOME, and all the music that I absorbed listening to the SABC African program, which our dear maid switched our radio to, when she did her housework, bopping around the house sweeping the floors or doing her other chores…
    I did the same when I heard these magical sounds many decades later. Ladysmith Black Mombazo is a phenomenon, as are all of the original groups that Simon used to make that wonderful album!

  2. Pingback: Refugees: yesterday, today and tomorrow | Anne Samson - Historian

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