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World Music CD Reviews Africa

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO

By James Rodgers
Published February 2, 2006

The Chillout Sessions
RASA

In their 30-plus years as a vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has released 40 albums of traditional harmonies and African rhythms. They are the voice of South Africa for many of us. So it is mildly disconcerting, like seeing the White House in Kansas, to hear their unique 10-part harmonies remixed with modern sounds and beats. This juxtaposition of electronic chillout rhythms and their voices seems so wrong. It shouldn’t work. So it speaks to the strength of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and their songs, and the expert work of remixers Marc Wollford, Temple of Sound, Nicky Blumenfeld, Dumi Dhlamini, and Concord Nkabinde, that this new release does shine. That being said, not everything succeeds. A couple tracks, most notably the Lion’s King Cross mix of “Inkanyezi Nezazi,” tries to make the remix the focus. It is when the new beats play alongside the vocals, letting those unique harmonies take center stage that this experiment soars. It’s refreshing to see a band, after three decades, continue to move in new directions. We need their songs of peace and harmony, whether traditional or remixed.