‘Mshengu the Musical’ celebrates Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s legacy

When you hear the words Ladysmith Black Mambazo, it’s often difficult to not associate this with greatness. 

And it’s understandable.  Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one of the few South African acts to achieve success in the international arena, with the group having won five Grammys. Few of us, however, know where this began for the collective from KwaZulu-Natal. 
To remedy this and commemorate the group’s 60 years, Mshengu The Musical will tell the story of Black Mambazo and one of its founding members, Professor Joseph Shabalala. 

The group’s manager Xolani Majozi explained why the collective saw fit to mark this milestone through a musical. “We felt the story of Professor Joseph Shabalala is a South African story. 

"A unique story and one that is a good story to tell because of his contribution to the entertainment industry, not only in the country but internationally as well,” Majozi said. 
As the group celebrates 60 years in music, Majozi added they believed this would be the perfect way to mark the occasion. The process of creating the production had been ongoing since talks began two years ago. 

The theatre production is written by Sandile Ngidi and directed by Desmond Dube, with research and creative support provided by members of the group. The group worked closely with Ngidi to provide him with the information to help him tell the story. 

          Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing ‘Homeless’ at the launch of Mshengu the Musical. Video: Masego Panyane

“This is one of the reasons why the group will have such a hands-on approach because we want to create an experience that will allow the audience to feel like they’re exposed to the real Black Mambazo. So it will have original compositions for the production and also make use of the songs that people know and love from the existing Black Mambazo catalogue,” he said. 
On why it’s named Mshengu the Musical, Majozi said: “Mshengu is the Shabalala clan name. In the industry, Shabalala is known as uMshengu so the naming of it makes reference to that.” 

The production is still in its infancy, with auditions for the cast set to take place on July 17 and 18.  

The production will then make its first stop at the Soweto Theatre in September for a short run, and then head off to the Joburg Theatre and other theatres across the country. 
* The show will run from September 13-29 at the Soweto Theatre, with early tickets selling between R80 and R250. Visit the theatre’s website for more details. 

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