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Songs from a Zulu Farm

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Album Review

Something of a follow-up to 1994's Gift of the Tortoise, Songs from a Zulu Farm is another Ladysmith Black Mabazo children's album, on which the nine-member South African male choir led by Joseph Shabalala sings traditional songs relating to children, specifically back home on the farm. Since the singing is in Zulu for the most part, the focus on nature, children, and animals may not be immediately apparent to an English speaker, who will hear the disc as a typical collection of a cappella singing, with Shabalala taking a lead part in front of the group's harmonies on short, repeated phrases. But occasionally the sounds of laughing children and animals intrude, and occasionally an English phrase is used, such as in "Imithi Gobakahle (Children Come Home)." Children on the farm in South Africa face issues that may not be encountered elsewhere, as is apparent in "Ntulube (Away, You River Snakes)." But they seem to be as fascinated by animals as children anywhere, and it's no surprise that "Old McDonald…Zulu Style" sounds like "Old McDonald" in other countries, complete with the sounds the animals make, common in any language.


Formed: 1974 in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, South A

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was founded by Joseph Shabalala in 1974. They've cut well over 30 albums since, but the group did not become well known outside of South Africa until Paul Simon asked them to perform on Graceland. Shabalala was born into a poor family that lived on a white man's farm near the town of Ladysmith. There were eight children in the Shabalala family, and, as the oldest boy, it was Joseph's duty to take care of the family after his father died. Shabalala's first musical experience,...
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Songs from a Zulu Farm, Ladysmith Black Mambazo
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