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