Social – The great Mambazo sendoff

2014-01-26 14:00

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Our treasured a cappella group have three Grammys in their cabinet. It would be great if they brought home a fourth, writes Sdu Gerasch

With only a couple of hours left before the prestigious Grammy Awards take place in the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, South Africans are crossing their fingers for our local a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

They have been nominated for the 17th time in the Best World Music category and it would be great if they brought home the fourth gramophone trophy.

They have three displayed proudly in their cabinet and they left on Monday evening for the US to attend the 56th edition of the Grammys and will spend three months touring the US.

It was an emotional, yet exciting, sendoff for the national treasure hosted by eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo at the Durban City Hall on Monday morning.

Stripped bare of the razzmatazz of showbiz, it was a sincere and intimate affair as we tucked into a full English breakfast and a selection of muffins, fruits and cheeses.

The founding member of the group, Prof Joseph Shabalala (yes, that’s his title), surprised many who were in attendance when he announced that he’ll be stepping down from the group due to health reasons, which make it difficult for a 73-year-old to travel and perform.

But he promised to ensure that the isicathamiya group continues to deliver the best music and performance they’re known for.

“I sit down and watch my boys and say: ‘Do the step’,” he says. “And I can see they are ready. If you don’t like them, it must be because you just don’t like them, not because they cannot sing or dance,” he joked.

Shabalala, who looked more relaxed compared with last October at their musical debut at The Playhouse, kept all and sundry in stitches with his biting humour and wit. I believe if he tried his luck in stand-up comedy, he would get full house attendance, just as he did with his music. There’s a retirement idea, Mshengu.

Nxumalo thanked the group for the role they’ve played in inspiring people around the world through their rich cultural music and for grooming the young generation to continue the legacy that Mshengu (Shabalala’s clan name) started five decades ago.

Among the well-wishers who attended the sendoff were KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, who looked elegant as always in all black, producer of LBM musical Xolani Majozi and speaker of the eThekwini municipality Logie Naidoo.

Another Grammy winner in the house was composer, producer and businessman Lebo Morake – popularly known as Lebo M of Lion King fame – who hailed the group as “the biggest a cappella group in the entire world”. Morake is currently working on the movie Blended, which will hit the screens in May and will feature the music of Junior Mambazo. Featured in the lead cast is none other than funnyman Adam Sandler and Hollywood A-lister Drew Barrymore.

The 56th Grammy Awards get under way on Channel?O, DStv channel 320, at 3am tomorrow.

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