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Annenberg Center Live celebrates the blues with African Roots, American Voices film and concert programming

annenberg center
Terence Blanchard will perform at the Zellerbach Theatre on 10/21 | photo by Henry Adebonojo | courtesy of the artist

Annenberg Center Live‘s African Roots, American Voices is an ongoing program that explores “the African diaspora’s unique contributions to American culture,” tracing the lineage through various musical genres. For their 2016/2017 season, the Center will look at the history and legacy of blues music through several film screenings, concerts and performances.

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Why Ladysmith Black Mambazo Will Last Forever

via Facebook.com/LadysmithBlackMambazo
via Facebook.com/LadysmithBlackMambazo
Even in the catch-all ecosystem of “world music”, few groups’ trajectories have seen their fortunes mirror their home country’s like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The all-male chorus, singing in the mbube and isicathamiya a cappella tradition (a tradition that took on new importance when industrialization and economic marginalization forced many African men to migrate to overcrowded cities for work), became locally renowned in their namesake city for tight harmonies and lively, stirring renditions of Zulu songs. Their founding in 1960 precipitated nearly two decades of internal development that, per the laws of cultural segregation, was relegated to African-exclusive spaces.

At a time in which the apartheid regime had forcefully isolated African artistic development (and the left-leaning artistic world had forcefully isolated that regime), Ladysmith Black Mambazo was hand-picked by Paul Simon to contribute to his career-reviving Graceland and subsequent tour. Inspiring exuberant praise and postcolonial criticism in equal measure, the album nonetheless propelled the group to worldwide acclaim and frequent festival-circuit tours as apartheid’s long shadow faded into the chaotic sunrise of ANC rule.

Even this most renowned of South African groups proved unable to escape the violence of either the 1980s Emergency or the contemporary crime epidemic. Several group members and their family members have been senselessly murdered. Stacked against the textbook rockstar-overindulgence tragedy, LBM’s struggles read more like tales of political dissidence or treason.

But years later, in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s recent passing, South Africa has embraced pluralism in all of its problematic and complex dimensions. Likewise, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has weathered trauma and evolved into a historic institution, dedicating itself to education and invisible boundary-crossing every time they perform or lead a workshop. With a nine-person line-up that now includes some children of older members, this group has worked itself into a timeless institution whose performances provide near-sacred ecstasy and musicological education in equal measure to audiences in every corner of the world. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: My Bloody Valentine at Electric Factory, Dresses at MilkBoy, Taj Mahal Trio at Grand Opera House, and more

My Bloody Valentine

Ethereal alt-rock icons My Bloody Valentine are bringing their elusive melodies and spidery vocals to Electric Factory tonight before they finish up their North American tour in New York. Dropping their anxiously anticipated third full length album mbv in February, Mark Richardson of Pitchfork gave it a 9.1 in his review saying, “mbv is an album of density with very little air or light. But it doesn’t forgo the human touches that have made this band so special.” Find tickets and details for tonight’s show here. Get ready for the show by watching their London performance of “Soon” below.

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