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Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Long Walk to Freedom

It’s a “greatest hits” package with a marvelous twist, as the South African collective surveys its three-decade career with fresh recordings featuring a multicultural assortment of A-list guests. Actually, though, “greatest messages” provides far more accurate delineation of these 13 reworked classics from the Joseph Shabalala-led freedom fighters.

Best known of the baker’s dozen tracks are “Homeless” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” two of the Paul Simon-penned tunes that helped transformed Ladysmith Black Mambazo into an international (and subsequently Grammy-winning) sensation when showcased on Simon’s landmark Graceland in 1986. Here both are provided with heightened grace, thanks to the respective addition of Sarah McLachlan and Melissa Etheridge.

Newly enlivened by Taj Mahal is the traditional Zulu anthem “Mbube” (more recognizable to American ears as either “Wimoweh” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). Emmylou Harris adds, as always, impeccable elegance to a soaring medley of “Amazing Grace” and “Nearer My God to Thee.” But most stirring is an exalted “Shosholoza” that, featuring a grand summit of South African music giants including Hugh Masekela, Lucky Dube, Vusi Mahlasela and equally luminary others, joyously embraces the lyric’s fervent prayer for a brighter future.

Originally Published