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If You Go

Who: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

When: Friday, Jan. 26, 7:30 pm

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park

Tickets: $25 to $50, discounts for students

Information: 1-866-955-6040, gmc.sonoma.edu

The ebullient music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo is timeless, yet the group’s appeal goes beyond its uplifting vocals, lustrous a cappella harmonies, choreographed dance moves and infectious rhythms.

There’s something ineffable about the music that makes listeners feel good, so it’s no surprise that many of their fans come to see their shows year after year.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo plays at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center in Rohnert Park on Jan. 26. And they’ll play Jan. 27 and 28 at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage.

A hybrid of Zulu harmonies and gospel stylings, the band was founded by Joseph Shabalala after he was inspired by a series of dreams in 1964.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo got its big break in the mid-1980s, backing Paul Simon on “Graceland,” providing the band a broad international following.

On Jan. 28, the group could potentially win two Grammy awards — they’ve been nominated for “Shaka Zulu Revisited” in the Best World Music Album category, and for “Songs of Peace and Love” in Best Children’s Album.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has a total of 17 nominations and has won four Grammys, the first in 1987.

The following interview with Shabalala’s son, Thulani Shabalala, was conducted via email in mid-December when he was in South Africa preparing for the current tour.

This year you released a kids’ album, “Songs of Peace and Love” — what messages are you seeking to deliver to children?

We love singing to children. We want them to hear messages of love, and that they should live in a peaceful way, not to fight and such. We want them to hear songs with a positive message about how to treat others and how others should treat them.

Last year you toured “Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers,” which honors the musical traditions of your homeland. What does it mean to you and your brothers to be part of this tradition? (Thulani and his three brothers play in the band.)

It’s not only a great honor, to carry on what our father began, but a tremendous responsibility. We take it very seriously. We know the sacrifices our fathers made. They lived difficult lives and traveled from their families for many months to make Ladysmith Black Mambazo what it is today.

My father’s brother, Headman Shabalala, was killed because a person didn’t like the fame he achieved. Now that the fathers have mostly retired or passed away, our generation must keep the mission going.

How involved is your father in the band today? And what’s it like to tour with your brothers?

Our father will come to the recording studio to guide us and maybe add his voice. Otherwise he is enjoying a relaxed life in Ladysmith, South Africa. He deserves that rest.

He had us, his four sons, join his group in 1993. It’s very good to be together, to be with family when we are away from our wives and children. We split the leadership and the singing. It’s more a group style of deciding things now.

What do you remember of Paul Simon coming to work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the mid-1980s when you were a teenager?

If You Go

Who: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

When: Friday, Jan. 26, 7:30 pm

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park

Tickets: $25 to $50, discounts for students

Information: 1-866-955-6040, gmc.sonoma.edu

When Paul came to South Africa our father was very excited about it and very nervous. After we joined, we would sing with Paul from time to time. In 2012, he came to South Africa to film the documentary about the making of “Graceland” so we were in the middle of that. We have tremendous respect for that album and everything it did to help South Africa and the musicians involved.

What do you and the band have planned for the upcoming tour? What albums are you featuring and will you play the classic songs?

Because we have two albums nominated for Grammy Awards this year, we want to sing many of those songs for the fans. Of course there will be a few classics like “Homeless.” We like to keep a mixture of Zulu language songs and English language songs.

You may know we had some terrible fires here in Northern California in October — do you see music as a source of healing?

We hope so. It’s why Ladysmith Black Mambazo became so popular in South Africa. Music is meant to heal. South Africa has been healing for many years, and we’re honored that our music is part of our country’s healing. We hope, in our small way, that our music and singing can bring joy into the lives of people who have suffered.

What do the two Grammy nominations mean to you?

Two nominations in one year, wow, it’s truly a blessing. We hope this means that Americans feel that our music is still relevant and enjoyable. We hope we can win one of these to celebrate our music, to honor our fans who keep supporting us, and to honor South Africa.

What are the most challenging aspects of international touring?

It’s always hard to leave our children and to know they are growing up without their fathers for many months of the year. South Africa is a challenging place and we would like to be with our families more, but we know our work is important, too important not to do. We never drink, never do drugs; we keep ourselves in the best physical and mental states for our shows. It’s too important.

Ultimately what’s the message of your music?

Everyone wants to live in peace and with love and harmony. We want to add our music to this dream.

Michael Shapiro is author of “A Sense of Place.” He writes about travel and entertainment for national magazines and The Press Democrat.

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