Masters of African Music with the South African supergroup Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Nominated for its 16th Grammy for Best World Music Album of 2015, this groundbreaking ensemble performs as part of an international tour and celebrates the 30th Anniversary of its collaboration

on Paul Simon’s seminal 1986 album Graceland


Date: Friday, February 19, 8:00 p.m.

Venue: The Town Hall

Address: 123 West 43rd St. Manhattan

Tickets: $65, $55, $50, $45

Co-presented with Town Hall

From the desk of World Music Institute’s Artistic Director Par Neiburger:

“Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one of Africa’s most beloved and internationally acclaimed musical groups with good reason. It is a vocal ensemble of unparalleled depth and spirit. As World Music Institute celebrates its 30th Anniversary Concert Season, Ladysmith Black Mambazo celebrates its 30th Anniversary of being introduced to a worldwide audience as part of the 1986 Paul Simon seminal classic album Graceland. It has always been a large part of our mission to bring international artists to wider audiences, and Simon helped provide this incredible ensemble with the significant audience recognition and critical acclaim that it was so clearly deserving of. We are pleased and proud to be sharing an important anniversary together.”

World Music Institute concludes the inaugural season of its Masters of African Music series on Friday, February 19 at 8:00 p.m. with South Africa’s legendary all-male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, marking the group’s first Town Hall performance in nearly a decade.

Just nominated for its 16th Grammy Award for Best World Music Album of 2015 for the CD Music From Inala (the group won its fourth Grammy in 2013 with the CD Singing For Peace Around The World), Ladysmith Black Mambazo also celebrates the 30th anniversary of being introduced to a worldwide audience as part of the 1986 Paul Simon album Graceland.

At Town Hall, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform works from throughout its illustrious career, from early favorites to selections from Graceland as well as the current album.

For over 50 years, this a cappella ensemble has warmed the hearts of audiences worldwide with its uplifting vocal harmonies, signature dance moves and charming onstage banter.

Five years ago, for the 25th anniversary of Graceland, Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo reunited to tour the music of Graceland and to reflect on the legacy of that collaboration in Under African Skies, a documentary prominently featured on PBS.

With a deep respect for both its cultural and personal history, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is an ever-evolving group which has already established a significant legacy. Over the years, the original members have welcomed a younger generation in their mission, passing along the tradition of storytelling and spreading their message of peace, love, and harmony to millions of people. The newer members, in turn, have infused the group with their youthful energy and the promise of a bright future. Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala looks to these young men to carry on his dream to “keep South Africa alive in people’s hearts” for years to come.



In 2014 Ladysmith Black Mambazo, South Africa’s most famous and successful music group, was awarded its fourth Grammy Award, for the CD Singing For Peace Around The World. It was Nelson Mandela who designated Ladysmith Black Mambazo “South Africa’s Cultural Ambassadors to the world,” a moniker the group holds close to its collective heart. Nelson Mandela has since passed away but the group has been celebrating his message of peace at every concert.

The group is currently nominated for another Grammy Award—its sixteenth nomination—for the CD Music From Inala, as Best World Music Album of 2015. The Grammy Award winner will be announced on February 15.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was founded in the early 1960s by Joseph Shabalala, then a teenage farm boy living on the land just outside the small town of Ladysmith, South Africa. Joseph incorporated the town’s name into the title he would give his group to honor his family history. The word Black is a reference to the oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo, the Zulu word for chopping axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Its singing won so many awards at the local competitions that by the end of the 1960’s the group was banned from competing. However it was always invited to participate as entertainers.

Apartheid, the South African social system forced upon the country’s black majority to keep the white minority government in power, was a dividing force in many ways. The musicians of South Africa took two paths of resistance. Some sang songs with powerful messages of revolution against the horrors of apartheid. Others, like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, followed a path of peaceful protest. Group founder Joseph Shabalala, following the ways of Martin Luther King Jr. in the USA and Mahatma Gandhi in India, wrote songs of hope and peaceful protest. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, in 1990, he called Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s singing one of the powerful messages of peace he listened to while in jail. When Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1993, he requested Ladysmith Black Mambazo to join him on his trip to Oslo Norway.

The group sings from a traditional music called isicathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-Ya), which developed in the mines of South Africa. It was there that black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and families. Poorly housed and paid worse, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs into the early hours on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to their homes, this musical tradition returned with them.

During the 1970’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo established itself as the most successful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated the group’s rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into the famous Graceland album, a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. Graceland won many accolades including the Grammy Award for Best Album of 1986.

In addition to its work with Paul Simon, the group has recorded with numerous artists, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, David Guetta, and Pete Seeger.

Five years ago, Joseph, then just turning seventy years of age, decided it was time to hand the future of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to his children, and to retire from concert touring. Joseph had brought his four sons into the group in 1993 when older members had retired. During these past twenty plus years he trained them to carry on the mission he began over fifty years ago. Ladysmith Black Mambazo carries its message of Peace, Love and Harmony as it travels the world year after year.


“In its 30th season, the World Music Institute breaks new ground.”

— The Wall Street Journal

Since 1985, World Music Institute has been the leading presenter of world music and dance in the United States. WMI is committed to presenting the finest in traditional and contemporary music and dance from around the world at attainable prices for all, with the goal to promote awareness and engagement of other cultures and to encourage cultural exchange between nations and ethnic groups. WMI collaborates with community organizations and academic institutions to foster greater understanding of the world’s cultural traditions and depends on public and private funding to accomplish its mission.

Under new leadership as of 2015-16—its 30th anniversary season—World Music Institute has introduced an ambitious expansion of concert offerings that include contemporary, experimental and avant-garde presentations, as well as the traditional music that WMI has long been known and admired for. In addition, the institution is thrilled to have launched new partnerships with BAM, 92nd Street Y, Storm King Art Center, Le Poisson Rouge, and Drom—while continuing partnerships with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Town Hall, Symphony Space, and the Apollo Theater (the annual Africa Now festival).

Some of the new and already widely-hailed series that World Music Institute created in the 2015-2016 season are the Lusophone Festival, Counterpoint series, Masters of Cuban Music, Masters of African Music, the return of Flamenco dance, and a Global Local initiative that offers opportunities and exposure to emerging NY talent in international music and dance. WMI is committed to continuing its legacy of presenting the world’s greatest living masters in Indian classical music as well as in Indian dance, notably with its acclaimed Dancing the Gods series.

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“a widely copied and influential force in New York cultural circles.”

— The New York Times

For more WMI events and the complete 30th anniversary season schedule,

please visit


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