For all the snarky comments Vampire Weekend gets about biting Paul Simon's style, maybe it'd be worth looking back even further? Sure, Simon was the one who released the landmark Graceland in 1986, incorporating African polyrhythmic sounds and vocals. But, uh, pre-existing actual African musicians who already made those kinds of sounds had to be recruited by Simon, right? Enter Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the vocal group that received national attention by backing Simon on that album. Founder and leader Joseph Shabalala put together his band in the early '60s to perform two styles of South African a cappella tunes — the more forceful mbube and the more harmonious isicathamiya. The group's tunes became so omnipresent in the '80s and '90s that they appeared anywhere from "Sesame Street" to Eddie Murphy comedies to evoke African themes. Haunting, evocative, stirring, and joyful, the sound of voices woven together is a pretty damn primal thing, and the Ladysmith guys know how to move a crowd. The 71-year-old Shabalala still leads the group, a nine-piece made up mostly of brothers, cousins, and sons. Ladysmith's most recent studio album is 2012's Songs from a Zulu Farm, and a new live album is called Singing for Peace Around the World.
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