Review of Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Southern Theater
Columbus, Ohio

If music be magic, the hypnotizing harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo manage to go even a step beyond.

Performing before a packed house of devoted fans who braved last night's deep snows, these eight magnificent South African men warmed a lot of hearts. Led by Joseph Shabalala, who founded the group 46 years ago (but who looks way too young for that), the deep, exquisitely soft acapello tones filled the theater with a sound that is hauntingly spiritual and entrancing.

Mixing their show with simple, good-natured humor and some high-stepping calesthenic dancing, the evening quickly took on the aspect of a friendly visit with a very nice group of people from a country recently---miraculously---liberated from the very Hell of the world's most bitterly entrenched racism. Singing to freedom, to joy, to friendship, to love and to liberation, Ladysmith uses the traditional Isicathamiya (Is-Cot-A-Me-Ya) idiom to convey a sense of relentlessly gentle well-being. The group gives the sense of being the unflappable eye of a brutal storm that is implied but that never draws even a frown.

This ceaseless stream of joyous non-violence could get wearing were it not so thoroughly relaxing and meditational. Especially in the very lengthy number that took up most of the show after intermission, the music became a transcendental raga, meant to lull the depths of the soul.

That the group succeeds brilliantly, with an aura of good-natured but precise professionalism, goes a long way to explaining why it has been around nearly a half-century.

Small wonder Ladysmith's South African cohorts will not allow the group to enter competitions anymore. This is one of music history's ultimate winners. Thank you, Paul Simon, for introducing this beautiful band, and all it represents, to the world at large.

Thank you, Joseph Shabalala, for making this incredible music.