Wednesday February 2 Mambazo kings: The name is the first mystery, but it's really very simple. Ladysmith refers to a South African township, black symbolizes the black ox, thought to be the strongest kind, and mambazo is an ax. Put that all together and you've got Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a fine-tuned Durban-based a cappella choir led by the emphatic Joseph Shabalala. The ten-man group has been around since the Sixties, when they won every musical competition South Africa had to offer; they later gained world recognition when they recorded with Paul Simon on his Graceland album. The members have gone on to record and perform on their own, culminating with a Broadway stage stint in The Song of Jacob Zulu. The only other mystery is why it took the world so long to get hip to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Shabalala brings his ensemble, fully fueled by a fervor akin to that of gospel music, to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight for a 7:30 show. Tickets are $20; for reservations or further information call 534-8336.
Thursday February 3 To boldly go where three series have gone before: The Denver Museum of Natural History has come up with a surefire way to capture the interest of those with short attention spans and get them in the mood to learn--and that includes children of all ages, from tiny tykes to thirtysomething Trekkies and beyond. A new exhibit, Star Trek: Federation Science--which will deposit visitors onto the Starship Enterprise's bridge among modular displays that focus on science and technology literacy--opens tomorrow. You'll be able to beam onto an alien planet, navigate an asteroid field, program a voice-activated computer or turn into a Klingon through June 5, but if you simply must see it before anyone else, the museum is throwing a costume-optional sneak preview shindig tonight from 7 to 10. For $25 ($20 members, $5-$7.50 children), you'll take a peek at the new exhibit, catch the latest planetarium show, Orion Rendezvous: A Star Trek Voyage of Discovery, sample galactic goodies from a dessert buffet and take home a complimentary bag of Trek surprises. If you would like to hit the final frontier in style, call 322-7009. The Denver Museum of Natural History is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd.
Friday February 4 Monks' music: The spiritual goings-on in Tibetan temples were largely unseen by the outside world until 1987, when the Dalai Lama himself approved the rituals for public viewing. Nine monks from the Ganden Jangtse monastery--destroyed during the Chinese occupancy of Tibet--will perform Tibetan Sacred Music and Dance with masks, eight-foot-long trumpets and astounding deep voice chants, tonight at the Temple Events Center, 16th and Pearl St. in Denver, and tomorrow at the Boulder High School auditorium, 17th and Arapahoe in Boulder. Admission to either show (both begin at 7 p.m.) is $12 ($8 children and seniors); for further information call 494-4188. Proceeds benefit the monks' relocation efforts, as well as those of other Tibetan refugees.
Saturday February 5 Dashing through the snow: Just thinking about it puts some color in your cheeks--the sparkling snow, the ice-encrusted pines and a whole slew of frigid adventurers, maybe including you, off on a ski tramp through wonderland. It's all possible during the Colorado Governor's Cup Cross Country Ski Event--actually a series of races for skiers of all abilities, including the junior contingent--being held today, beginning at 10 a.m., in Frisco. Registration fees are $15 in advance or $20 on race day (children $12 and $15). Competitors can preregister at the Frisco Nordic Center, REI stores in Denver and Westminster or Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder; race-day registration begins at 8:45 a.m. in the toasty Frisco Holiday Inn. For details or lodging information call 1-800-424-1554.
Message in a bottle: The word is that Geoff Muldaur, once a member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, long ago forsook his tootin' vessels for something far more sophisticated. He's now working with a chamber group that includes French horn, bassoon, clarinets and violin, rounded out by bassist Billy Rich and Austin guitarist Stephen Bruton--putting a new orchestral twist on the American folk and blues idioms he knows so well. Muldaur wows them every time he comes through--tonight should be no exception when the Swallow Hill Music Association sponsors a show at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., beginning at 8. For tickets, $12 ($10 members), call 777-1003.
Sunday February 6 Carved in stone: A creative and feminine wing of the Jewish community has been in the spotlight recently during the run of Jewish Women and Art: Jewish Women Transcending Time, an exhibit on display at the Curtis School Arts and Humanities Center, 2349 E. Orchard Rd., through Feb. 19. In conjunction with the show, sculptor and former Denverite Devorah Sperber will be in town for a reception and slide lecture from 3 to 5 this afternoon. Sperber, whose two new pieces in the show are a departure for her, will discuss her major Holocaust-inspired sculpture series--seen in 1991 at an Anne Frank exhibit held at the Denver Museum of Natural History--as well as her recent works and the creative process. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public; call 797-1779.
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Making book: There's a tiny pocket of literacy, comfort and light amid the sleaze parade on East Colfax Ave., where the dedicated booksellers at Capitol Hill Books, smack on the corner of Colfax and Grant, hold forth. They invite the public to attend their Capitol Hill Books Salon Season, a warm series of monthly book events taking place on Sunday evenings. Tonight from 5 to 7, meet bookcrafter/designer Alicia McKim for a truly inside look at what goes into creating a book. Future salons this spring include Joycean readings and a visit by graphic artist/photographer Thordis Simpson. For details call 837-0700.
Monday February 7 Pride on loan: The Black American West Museum and Heritage Center is putting in its two historical cents this month with a Black History Month Exhibit, available for free viewing by the public in the Norwest Bank Atrium, 1740 Broadway. The photo and text exhibition covers Denver's African-American heritage, with images of black pioneers and early settlers mixed in with a history of the Five Points neighborhood and black political firsts in the twentieth century. Exhibit hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, today through February 19. Or for a more comprehensive look, drop by the museum, 3091 California St., which features a year-round wealth of historic materials about African-Americans in the West. Call 292-2566.
Tuesday February 8 Let's be Frank: The choreography of Twyla Tharp, known for its originality and modernity, has been seen on Broadway stages and in ballet, theater, film and television, and performed in the company of luminaries like Mikhail Baryshnikov and David Byrne. Tonight Tharp brings her top-of-the-line troupe, the Twyla Tharp Dance Company, to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., for a program characteristically embracing a variety of dance and music forms and highlighted by her popular Nine Sinatra Songs, set to the tunes of Ol' Blue Eyes himself. Tickets are $26 and $31; call the Paramount at 534-8336 for reservations. The way to a man's heart...: It's time to get in shape--heart shape, that is--for February's celebrated holiday of lovers, just around the corner on your calendars, folks. You and your sweetie can learn the epicurean lore of love during a Valentine Cooking Class and Dinner being held tonight at McCormick's Fish and Oyster House, 1659 Wazee St., with Chef Stephen Vice at the helm. Vice will prepare and serve a meal featuring foods reputed to have aphrodisiacal qualities--from oysters Rockefeller to a sinful chocolate truffle cake--with instruction beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by the banquet at 8. The whole lovely thing will set you back $25 each; to reserve your romantic place in the hash line, call 628-5532.