Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs during the grand opening of last year's World Choir Games in Tshwane. File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA) Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - The legacy of the iconic isicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo is set to be told in a new musical to hit the Soweto Theatre stage in September.

Mshengu the Musical is written by Sandile Ngidi and tells the life story of the group’s founding member, Professor Joseph Shabalala, and the journey of rising to international stardom with the five-time Grammy award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The musical is directed by multi-talented actor and comedian Desmond Dube.

Speaking at the launch at Joburg Theatre on Wednesday, Dube said it was important that “our stories are told by people who understand them”.

“We need to start documenting our own (stories). So I couldn't be happier that Joburg City Theatre decided to embark on a project like this. It's time for South Africans to know that this is what they've been waiting for, this is what they wanted. Now their stories can be told by their own people.”

“I recently saw an interview with Denzel Washington after he directed the movie Fences. He was asked why it was important for the film to be directed by a black person.

“He explained that it wasn't a matter of black or white, but rather about the culture. About having someone at the helm of the film who understands where these people come from.

“It’s important to understand the culture of where these people come from, the music and what inspired them to become who they are. That is what we want to achieve with this story,” Dube said. 

He added that he found the task of directing this production nerve-racking, simply because the group has come to mean so much to him.

“Of course I’m nervous. I’m shaking. You have no idea. Black Mambazo is turning 60 in the music industry next year. uBab’ Shabalala is older than 60. If I want to tell the story of a man and his music, I have taken 60 years worth of music and life and squeezed it into two hours. That is scary, but exciting at the same time,” he said.

Nomsa Mazwai, general manager of the Soweto Theatre, said as they are custodians of the arts, the production is part of their aim to honour indigenous cultures and legends.

“This partnership with this phenomenal group fits perfectly with our vision of the arts and culture industries. Our cultures are rich in diversity and alive with possibilities."

Speaking on behalf of the group, Sibongiseni Shabalala, one of Joseph’s sons, said they were humbled by the efforts made to tell this story.

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