Ladysmith Black Mambazo,
Raise Your Spirit Higher
(Gallo, 2003; Heads Up, 2004)

The first time I heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo play and sing was on Sesame Street. I liked them then, my young charges loved them and, 29 years later, they still give me the shivers. Those of us who don't think Sesame Street attracts only the young set and, consequently, groups with limited appeal, need to take off their Ray Bans and dust off their boom boxes or whatever listening devices they employ. Ladysmith knows how to bring the joie back into one's vivre, and that is something remarkable.

The CD begins with the rousing "Wenyukela," or "Set Your Spirit Higher," which the accompanying liner notes tell is a metaphor of sorts for the crucifixion of Jesus, as well as the internecine battles of the South African people. This song also underscores the struggles of this group to survive and thrive through years of hardship. Thus, this song, as well as others, meld the struggles of the one to become the struggles of the many, and eventually, the triumph of all.

Raise Your Spirit Higher is filled with songs that transcend the narrow focus of humanity's various cultures. Although there are wars being fought in a number of places and many misunderstandings both locally and abroad, this music serves as a focal point for community. Ladysmith Black Mambazo has worked with any number of musicians, such as Paul Simon on Graceland, Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder, the Corrs and a variety of other projects. With its emphasis on spreading its word through songs that sing to the heart as well as the sounds within the spirit, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has created a masterwork. Raise Your Spirit Higher is a work of the heart just as Sesame Street showed us all those years ago.

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 24 October 2004

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