Joseph Shabalala, Founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Passed Away at 78
via Paul Simon/YouTube
Joseph Shabalala, the founder and leader of the Grammy award-winning South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo has died at aged 78. He passed away on February 11, Tuesday, at a hospital in Pretoria. Ladysmith Black Mambazo took to social media to announce the heartbreaking news.
They wrote: “Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala – Our Founder, our Teacher and most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace. We celebrate and honor your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever.”
South Africa’s parliament also issued the following statement: “We find it particularly poignant that Mr Shabalala’s death comes today, when we are commemorating the 30th anniversary of the release from prison of former President Nelson Mandela.
We recall that this iconic group formed in 1964, the same year when Madiba and his fellow Rivonia treason trialists were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
We share Madiba’s admiration for the group and its inspirational music. It was fitting that he called them “South Africa’s ambassadors of song”.
We appreciate his popularising and taking to the international stage the centuries-old isicathamiya and mbube music, and are confident that it will live on to continue bringing hope and joy to future generations.
Our thoughts are with Mr Shabalala’s wife, family and friends at this sad time.”
In one BBC interview, Shabalala revealed how he was inspired to form the group. He said, “The young boys when they get together, they started to sing the songs, until the mamas and the neighbours said, ‘Hey, do it again.’ It was just like that. They were calling, ‘Do it again, do it again’.”
They sang on Paul Simon’s 1986 Graceland album and Shabalala co-wrote “Homeless.” The group also joined Simon’s world tour.
Shabalala retired from touring back in 2014 because of health issues. But he continued to teach traditional choral music in South Africa. Ladysmith Black Mambazo are currently touring in the US.