When he was 9 years old, Albert Mazibuko formed his own singing group in South Africa.
“I heard other people singing in my area and I said, ‘I can do better than that,’” Mazibuko said. Then, however, he heard the group led by Joseph Shabalala. “When I saw Joseph in 1960, I said, ‘I’m going to have to join him,’” Mazibuko said. “In 1969, fortunately Joseph came to me.” Shabalala asked Mazibuko to join what became Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Mazibuko is still singing with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, although founder Shabalala has recently retired. The vocal group, which is on a major North American concert tour, will perform Feb. 3 in Rochester.
Mazibuko spoke on the phone from a tour stop in Oakland, Calif.
A long tour like this must be difficult.
It’s nine weeks, and there are still eight to go. It’s a mixed feeling in a way. We miss our homes, but you are everyday excited to be with our fans from all around. It’s a wonderful life, satisfying you everyday. You receive the love from the people. You are looking forward to that every evening. You fill your soul.
What’s it like performing without Joseph?
I think he’s done enough for teaching us how to handle the singing, how to handle the fame. His spirit is always with us.
Do you see yourselves as teaching the world about South Africa and its culture?
We are doing our best to show what South Africa is like, Also, our message is peace, love and happiness. It’s not only about South Africa, but about life itself and the world.
How important was the music during the struggles against apartheid?
The music was very important in that time. It was the only thing giving us hope and keeping us going. We said, “Let’s shine this little light we have now, so someday it can shine brighter.”
How big was it for Ladysmith Black Mambazo to record “Graceland” with Paul Simon?
Cooperating with Paul Simon was the greatest thing that ever happened to the group. I don’t think the group would be touring all around the world if it wasn’t for that cooperation. We needed someone to put us on the world stage.
Were you surprised by the positive reception?
Part of me was surprised. Part of me was saying, “This is what Joseph has been telling us everyday.” I was hoping for something that would last two or five years, or maybe 10. But now I’m surprised. It has been going on for much more than 10 years.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo in a Riverside Live! concert
7:30 p.m. Feb. 3.
Mayo Civic Arena, 30 Civic Center Drive SE, Rochester
$29, available at Riverside Concerts office in City Hall, 507-328-2200, at the civic center box office, and through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000.