FOLLOWING the success of the Amambazo the Musical, a theatrical piece that tells the story of the legendary group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, negotiations are under way to take the production to London.
But that’s about all we could squeeze out of executive producer Xolani Majozi in a chat about what has been happening with the production since it launched in Durban late last year and subsequently played in Gauteng.
The musical returns to Durban after a five-week run at the State Theatre in Pretoria. Presented in association with The Playhouse Company, this will also be a live recording of the musical.
Directed by Edmund Mhlongo, Amambazo the Musical features a cast of 25, including a six-piece band and members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The musical stages at a time when the group celebrates what has been a highly successful year so far. Ladysmith Black Mambazo won yet another coveted Grammy Award in January. In April, they won two South African Music Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award and an International Recognition Award – among others.
We asked Majozi why, out of a number of music activists in South Africa, they had opted to tell the story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
“I can relate to their story, and I think most South Africans can relate to and be motivated by their story. If you look at Shabalala’s (Professor Joseph Shabalala, who formed the group in the 1950s) background, he came from a very poor and disadvantaged background in Ladysmith, but he had this vision of starting this group. And look at their international success today. So his story proves to everyone that if you have a vision and you work hard, nothing is impossible,” he said.
Majozi said as the musical has developed it has been well received wherever it has staged.
“We’ve been interacting with the audiences along the way to get their feedback. We noticed that when many people initially heard about the show, they thought it would be an Isicathamiya show about Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s music. But when they came to see the musical they discovered it’s very different. It’s about the history of the group and their contribution to democracy in South Africa, sung through.”
Commenting on the plans to tour internationally, he said: “We are working around the clock to launch the production internationally in July 2016, in London. We are busy working on that at this stage. This is being planned as the international launch. Even next year we will cut down on local tours because we want to focus on the preparations for the Amambazo the Musical in the UK.
“We hope to expand the tour after the UK launch and to take the show wherever there is an interest and market for it. The musical has the potential to tour widely internationally, especially because the story of Ladysmith Black Mambazo is so well known,” he said.
Major highlights for the group include their famous collaborations with artists such as Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Josh Groban, Ben Harper and Dolly Parton. Ladysmith Black Mambazo have also performed for world leaders such as the late former president, Nelson Mandela, as well as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. The ensemble is the only African group to have won Grammy Awards on four occasions.
Majozi said from the day Shabalala moved from Ladysmith to find work in Durban, to the formation of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the hits that made the group popular over the years, their history is reflected in the two-hour show, which has a 20-minute interval.
• Amambazo the Musical stages from Thursday to September 14 at the Playhouse Theatre. Tickets cost R120 at Computicket or through the Playhouse box office at 031 369 9540 (during office hours). Evening performances are at 8pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), with matinees at 2pm on Saturday and 3pm Sunday. Schools performances at R20 a pupil will be held at 10am from Mondays to Fridays.