In the category of live musical performances, this one was certainly… unique. I’ve got Kyle to thank for the tickets, since he’s able to get his hands on pretty much anything he wants here in Bloomington-Normal through his connections with the radio stations. They provide him with promotional access to everything—John Mayer this weekend, Ron White last week(had to turn that one down), and tonight, it was Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
I’ve been to my fair share of rock concerts over the years—the kind where you go in with perfect hearing and healthy ear drums, and come out with the auditory freshness of a 90-year old war vet with his Beltone turned all the way down. I’ve also been to a handful of rap concerts, which are about as musically enriching as a symphony of garbage can lids being knocked over by cats in a dark alley.
These concert experiences (for the most part) have been energetic, flashy, and commercial, but there’s no real substance to them. Kids aren’t going to these shows to hear a prophetic artist speak his/her mind on a controversial subject, or to spread peace and love to the people sharing the music with them. Quite the contrary, actually—most rock concerts involve a thrashing throng of inebriated teens with tattoos and pink Mohawks whose main objective is to sever any flailing limb within a ten-foot radius of their bodies.
Mambazo, however, was peaceful and positive and uplifting. The group is based in South Africa, and was started by a man 46 years ago who literally dreamt the harmonies that would become his group’s signature style. Now the man’s an ordained minister and professor of music with 12 Grammy nominations and appearances at Nobel peace ceremonies.
The music itself is a droning meditation of harmonies and African improvisations. The songs are about the condition of the world, and what all of us can do to help make it better. Smiling and waving with both hands throughout the concert, the singers seem like genuinely nice people. To be truthful, I would absolutely love to hang out with the fellers from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I have no doubt it’d be a night for the ages.
I’m not saying I’m going to burn all my Incubus albums or anything, but tonight’s show was a different kind of musical experience—one that took me to a new place. I’m too tired at this hour of the night to really give it much deeper thought than this, but I know I enjoyed it thoroughly and plan to resurrect the Paul Simon “Graceland” CD to get the rest of my fill of these guys.
Just remember that even though the general state of modern popular music is in serious decline, there’s still some worthwhile positive stuff out there. At the very least, you’ve got to love that old Life Savers commercial they did, right?