1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Ladysmith Black Mambazo”

Mbube – The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Why, you may well ask should we listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing a song that has been covered millions of times and is so well known that it has worn a groove through Africa the size of the Great Rift Valley. We have a choice of so many versions, including the original by Solomon Linda’s Evening Birds, why should we listen to this one?

Well, what Ladysmith Black Mambazo do with the song is take the original and bring a cleaner sound to it, using the advantage of more modern technology for their recordings of it. They also know how to produce the beautiful harmonies that Solomon Linda’s crew did.

They approach the song in a slightly different way though, seeing more of the lullaby side to it. They bring in the help of a woman (not sure who) who narrates a childs story over the gentle tones of the Mambazos and she adds the modern ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ lyric to the original ‘Mbube’. The result is a thing of delicate beauty. While there are a lot of the versions out there and most of them take a Tarzan swinging through the jungle approach with over the top falsetto vocals, it is nice to occasionally soften the tone and enjoy the song crowded around the cot, watching the youngster drift off to sleep.

Also worth checking out is the version where Ladysmith Black Mambazo team up with British group The Mint Juleps (see video link below)

Where to find it
Gift Of The Tortoise -Ladysmith Balck Mambazo (1994), Gallo, CDGMP

Videos:
Ladysmith Balck Mambazo

With the Mint Juleps:

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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 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

Video:

Paradise Road – Joy

Paradise Road – Joy

Paradise Road - Joy

Paradise Road – Joy

‘Paradise Road’ is without a doubt a South African classic. The song had a 9 week run at the top of the SA Top 20 in 1980. Charisma’s ‘Mammy Blue’ (which spent 12 weeks at the top) was the only local act to do better. Richard Jon Smith’s ‘Michael Row The Boat Ashore’ also managed 9 weeks, however of these 3 songs, ‘Paradise Road’ was the one that was not a cover version of an international song. It also seems to have been the one that has stuck in the local psyche, perhaps helped by its inclusion in the musical ‘Umoja’ which had international success.

Apart from the lush orchestration and powerful, goosebump inducing vocal performance of Felicia Marian, Thoko Ndlozi and Anneline Malebo, there are the subtle political undertones in the lyrics. Talk of “fire smoking”, the “sky is blazing” and “a young man nearly beaten” hint at the troubled townships of the apartheid era. But what set this apart from other songs of this ilk was the message of hope in the song. “There are better days before us and a burning bridge behind us”, points to the transition that finally came almost 14 years after the song was topping our charts and made it an almost perfect anthem for the fall of apartheid. Watch the video for the cover version by Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Timothy Moloi mentioned below and you’ll see what I mean.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610

Video:
Joy:


Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Timothy Moloi:


Umoja:

Lyrics:
Come with me down paradise road
This way please, I’ll carry your load
This you won’t believe.
Come with me to paradise skies
Look outside and open your eyes
This you must believe.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’ the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love.
Paradise was almost closin’ down.

Come with me to paradise days
It’ll change your life, it’ll sure change your ways
This you won’t believe.
Take my hand down paradise lane
Away from heart ache with out any pain
I know ’cause I have been.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’, the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love.
Paradise was almost closin’ down.

There are better days before us
And a burning bridge behind, fire smokin’, the sky is blazing,
There’s a woman waiting weeping
And a young man nearly beaten all for love

You must believe – you must believe this
You must believe – you must believe this
You must believe – you must believe this…
There are better days…

(Written by Patric van Blerk & Fransua Roos)

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