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Ladysmith Black Mambazo's favorite guest appearance? It wasn't Paul Simon...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Collaboration has been key for Ladysmith Black Mambazo during the South African vocal troupe's 50-plus year career.

The group came to fame, of course, as part of Paul Simon's Grammy Award-2wnning "Graceland" project in 1986. Since then the group has worked many others -- Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, Taj Mahal, Sarah McLachlan and more -- and loaded up with guests on 20102's "& Friends" album. And the group's new "Always With Us," a tribute to Nellie Shabalala -- the late wife of Ladysmith founder Joseph Shabalala -- pairs the group with its Women of Mambazo sister choir.

The group's Albert Mazibuko says these pairings are "a dream come true" for Ladysmith's nine members. "From the beginning we wanted to unite people with our music," says Mazibuko, the senior member of Ladysmith's touring unit while Shabalala stays in South Africa to work on new material. "So if somebody comes and says, 'Let's do something together,' that is what we wanted to do. We wanted the world to come together in peace and connect and then share ideas and make people happy and sing."

Ladsymith's favorite collaborator comes as a bit of a surprise, however.

"Dolly Parton -- she is very famous to our wives," Mazibuko says with a laugh about Ladysmith's 1996 team-up with the country singer on a version of Cat Stevens' "Peace Train." "Even before we joined Paul Simon they were playing her music, so we were very excited to meet this lady.

"I remember when we met her we were in New York and we recorded the song called 'A Peace Train.' We were talking with her for maybe 20 minutes or so, then she disappeared and came back with different attire from head to toe. We said, 'Whoa, we are at a fashion show in the studio here!' That was the most enjoyable recording that we had, and a great experience."

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township. Tickets are $15-$48. Call 568-286-2141 or visit www.macombcenter.com.

Web Site: www.macombcenter.com

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