Ladysmith Black Mambazo to South Africans: Stop Attacking Immigrants

Loading
Error

/

Download
Embed Code

Copy/paste the following code

Donate

 (AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

"United we stand, divided we shall fall."

Ladysmith Black Mambazo's latest song, with Malian singer Salif Keita, is a plea for peace in South Africa, which has been grappling with the fallout from deadly violence against immigrants from other parts of Africa.

For this song, the distinctive Zulu Isicathamiya style — an a cappella form of singing — blends with the soaring vocals of Keita, who's known as Mali's golden voice. He's teamed up with the Grammy Award-winning group to deliver one joint message.

"Africa is our home," they sing in Zulu, English and Bambara. "Make it a better place. Peace, love and harmony."

The anti-immigrant violence began in late March in the KwaZulu-Natal province, where the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo are from. The attacks come after the influential king of South Africa's Zulu nation reportedly described migrants as lice that needed to be removed. "Let us pop our head lice. We must remove ticks and place them outside in the sun," King Goodwill Zwelithini reportedly said in a charged speech on March 20. "We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and be sent back."

Zwelithini has denied inciting violence, but many South Africans still blame immigrants for the country's poor economy and high unemployment rate. They accuse the outsiders of stealing jobs, homes and even their women.

Seven people — including four foreigners — have been killed. One was a man from Mozambique who was stabbed and beaten in broad daylight in Alexandra township in northern Johannesburg. Foreign-owned shops have been looted and hundreds of immigrants have fled the country. Many of those still in South Africa fear for their lives. Many of them, including children, have sought refuge in a dusty transit camp outside the port city of Durban, which is home to thousands of immigrants — and where the attacks started.

The parents are desperate to return to their jobs, but say they can't lest attackers wielding machetes, clubs and other weapons chase after them.

This was the second sustained outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa in seven years. Almost 70 people were killed in 2008.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has always advocated peace, says Sibongiseni Shabalala, a son of the group's founder. So it came as a shock when deadly attacks against mainly African immigrants erupted in their own province.

"We feel very ashamed especially because we travel all over the world for peace," Shabalala says. "They come as brothers, but now when this happened, it makes us feel very bad that our people can do such things to our African brothers and sisters."

Their song is a reminder that "we are all Africans [and] Africa is for us all," he continues. "That's exactly how we were brought up at home. My father always taught us to be respectful, to live in peace with other people, to love other people."

He says the anger must be controlled: "If there [are] problems, people must sit down and talk. But fighting — killing each other — will never solve the problems."

Shabalala says the atmosphere in the recording studio in Durban, where they recorded the song, should be an example to everyone.

"This is how people should live, together," he tells NPR. "If people can come and see us, sitting with our brothers and sisters from Mali, from South Africa, working on a song of peace, trying to send this message that people should stop and think, before killing each other."

Shabalala hopes that once people hear the song, they will listen to its message. "Music — when you are sad — it calms you. You sing, it heals you," he says. "We are all brothers and sisters."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

South Africa is grappling with the fallout from recent violence, a wave of deadly attacks on outsiders - migrants mostly - from other parts of Africa. In an effort to promote peace and harmony, the Grammy Award-winning South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo has teamed up with Salif Keita, the man known as the golden voice of Mali. They recorded a song to send a message against xenophobia. To learn more, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton met up with one of the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing) United we stand. Divided we shall fall. (Singing in foreign language).

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Ladysmith Black Mambazo come from KwaZulu-Natal, where the xenophobic violence erupted.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing) Africa is our home. Make it a better place. (Singing in foreign language) Peace, love and harmony...

QUIST-ARCTON: Distinctive Zulu Isicathamiya rhythms blend with a soaring voice of Mali's Salif Keita with one joint message - peace, love and harmony and an end to xenophobia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: The son of the founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sibongiseni Shabalala, says the group has always advocated peace, so it came as a shock when deadly attacks against mainly African immigrants broke out in their own province in South Africa, here in KwaZulu.

SIBONGISENI SHABALALA: We feel very ashamed, especially because we travel all over the world of peace. They come as brothers. But now when this thing happened, it make us feel very bad that our people can do such things to our brothers and sisters from Africa. That's why we have to send this message that we are all Africans. Africa is for us all. South Africa is their country. It's for us all. That's exactly how we were brought up at home. My father always taught us to be respectful, to live in peace with other people, to love other people.

QUIST-ARCTON: Shabalala says...

SHABALALA: If I'm in Nigeria, I must feel at home. If I'm in Zimbabwe, I must feel at home. If people from Nigeria are here, they must feel at home because they are home. We are all human beings. Sometimes you can't control how you feel anger, but you must always control your anger. If there's problems, people must sit down and talk, but fighting, killing each other will never solve the problems. (Singing) United we stand, divided...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Mali's Salif Keita recorded the new song here in Durban, a city that is home to thousands of African immigrants. Many fled the violence and hundreds of foreign workers still fearful are in a dusty transit camp. Sibongiseni Shabalala says the atmosphere in the recording studio should be an example to everyone.

SHABALALA: You know, it was like this is how people should live together. This is the example. If people could come and see us sitting with our brothers and sisters from Mali, from South Africa, working on a song of peace, trying to send this message that people should stop and think before killing each other.

QUIST-ARCTON: Shabalala sums it up this way.

SHABALALA: Once you start the song, people will listen. If the song has a good message, people can get the message that we should all live in peace. We are all brothers and sisters. Music, when you are sad, it calms you. You sing, it heals you. So united we stand, divided we shall fall. Let's get together - do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing in foreign language).

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Durban.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNITED WE STAND")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO AND SALIF KEITA: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.