Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mahotella Queens- true royalty

You might think of them as a South African equivalent to girl group greats like the Shirelles or the Vandellas but in truth, the real connection is that the Mahotella Queens happen to be a sweet-voiced singing group who started out in the mid 60's. Unlike many of their American sisters in girl groups, the group didn't naturally come together from young friends- they were formed by producers/labels with various line-ups. During the 70's, there were a host of different "Queens" but it was during the 80's that three of the original members got together again to record: Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Shawe Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola. And if anyone is worthy of wearing a regal epithet, it's these three ladies (and Latifah too).

Sad to say, their usual leader, the late/great singer Mahlathini who had been paired up with them since the 60's and recorded again with them a number of times in the 80's, is no longer with us- I had seen one of his last (if not last) New York shows with the Queens and it was nothing short of magical.

With a new album (last year's Reign & Shine on Wrasse) and a world tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, western audiences have a chance to savor this great group again. What they have in common with LBM are beautiful, joyous harmonies which they can carry accapella with no problem.

But don't take my word for it- see them in New York at S.O.B.'s on October 16th (they're also playing a Carnegie Hall gig with LBM the following night). Also, listen to a few song samples of Reign & Shine.


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