LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO Raise Your Spirit Higher (Heads Up) Rating: NNNN
It was Paul Simon's collaborations with Ladysmith Black Mambazo that introduced the world to the many splendours of South African vocal music. And although some critics shouted cultural appropriation, Simon's recordings nevertheless propelled the group to a level of global recognition and acclaim that would have been beyond the reach of any a cappella group singing Zulu hymns. As the title of Ladysmith's latest suggests, the concept here is primarily spiritual music, and like North American gospel it's both soothing and uplifting. But Ladysmith doesn't stop with praise music. Toward the album's end, the song Fak' Ibhande urges drivers to wear seat belts and not drink and drive with the same passion that goes into their spiritual material. Undeniably beautiful. Ladysmith Black Mambazo let their voices soar at Massey Hall tonight (Thursday, February 19).