Long Walk to Freedom

Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Heads Up


Joseph Shabalala?s Ladysmith Black Mambazo stood for hope during the days of South African apartheid, their stirring a cappella vocals sounding a reliable note of peaceful determination. Now, the eight-man ensemble has shifted into party mode, reworking some favorite songs (including two from the group?s collaboration with Paul Simon on Graceland), joined by famous fans. If not everyone takes to Ladysmith?s swooping, soaring style (i.e., Natalie Merchant), sparkling performances predominate. Emmylou Harris brings a rural twang to the breathtaking ?Amazing Grace?; Taj Mahal shows off his spiky blues guitar on ?Mbube,? a.k.a. ?The Lion Sleeps Tonight?; and Melissa Etheridge helps make ?Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes? into a swinging, doo-wop-flavored romp. Shabalala and company have long been known as inspiring good guys. Long Walk is a reminder that they?re plenty of fun, too.

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  • Jon Young is a contributing writer for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.