1973, Music

Amabutho (1973) by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

When I listened to Shaka Zulu I vowed one day to hear what this group would sound like not produced by a white American who introduced their music to the States. Apparently, it didn’t take me very long.

A Capella music is sometimes hard to judge because it is very much its own genre (even when taking on different genres) and if you don’t have a long history of listening to it, you lack the context. This is even more true with mbube or Isicathamiya, which I have only ever heard a few times before. (Do I know the difference between these two genres? No I do not, no matter how much I read about them on wikipedia.)

So is this good mbube or Isicathamiya? I have no idea. My only point of reference is Shaka Zulu and the bits on Graceland. This music is relatively less polished but that could be a recording technology factor. The music notably has no English words, which is definitely a sign that this is more “real” than what we got on Graceland. But, aside from that, it’s hard to know. I know this group’s reputation – they apparently won a lot of contests (similar to jazz cutting contests) in their region, meaning that they are likely very good at this genre.

The music itself is quite pleasing to the ear, even though I don’t know what they are saying. It’s easy to see why it’s this style of music from the south of Africa which has become world famous – it’s very accessible even though we don’t understand it.

This is as good a document of it as far I know of, because I don’t really know.


  1. “Amabutho” (Warriors)
  2. “Isigcino” (The End)
  3. “Yadla Yabeletha” (It Eats Often)
  4. “Awu, Wemadoda” (Hey, Man!)
  5. “Mlaba”
  6. “Ushaka” (King Shaka)
  7. “Nomathemba” (Hope)
  8. “Nqonqotha Mfana” (The Boy Knocks)
  9. “Utugela” (The Tugela River)
  10. “Sivuya Sonke” (We Perform Everywhere)
  11. “Nkosi Yamakhosi” (King of Kings/Lord of Lords)
  12. “Ngelekelele”

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