Joseph Shabalala, the bandleader who brought the South African vocal consistency group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to worldwide success, has actually passed away aged 78.
Shabalala died in healthcare facility in Pretoria and the news was confirmed by the group’s manager, Xolani Majozi. No cause of death has been revealed.
“Our Creator, our Instructor and most significantly, our Daddy left us today for eternal peace,” the choir said on social media. “We celebrate and honour your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you was available in contact with, you shall live forever.” South African president Cyril Ramaphosa called him a “seasoned choral master”.
Shabalala began singing as a teen with the groups Durban Choir and the Highlanders, before forming Ezimnyama in 1959. He later christened it Ladysmith Black Mambazo– Ladysmith for his home town, Black for the regional livestock, and Mambazo, the Zulu word for axe, as a metaphor for the group’s sharpness.
Their remarkably harmonised a cappella songs in Zulu became hugely popular in South Africa after the release of their launching album in 1973. The group’s members would go on to transform to Christianity and bring religious music into their repertoire.
They pertained to global attention after they collaborated with Paul Simon on his 1986 album Graceland, co-writing the tune Homeless– its melody based upon a Zulu wedding event song– and singing the backing to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.
Over the years, they likewise teamed up with Dolly Parton, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris and more; the group appeared in the Michael Jackson film Moonwalker. In 1993, they accompanied Nelson Mandela to his Nobel peace reward ceremony in Oslo. Their theme for England’s 1995 Rugby World Cup campaign, a version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, reached No 15 in the UK singles charts, and a 1998 best-of collection album reached No 2.
Shabalala retired from Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2014; 4 of his boys perform in the present lineup. The group have been chosen for 17 Grammy awards, winning five, most recently for finest world music album in 2017.
Joseph Shabalala, front left, with other members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon in 1993. Photograph: AP
In 2002, Shabalala’s better half, Nellie, a church pastor who had her own group, Females of Mambazo, was shot and killed in Durban. Joseph was hurt in the attack as he pursued the shooter. Mboneni Mdunge was founded guilty of murder and sentenced to life jail time.
The South African federal government shared its condolences to his household and commemorated him on Twitter, composing in Xhosa: “Ulale ngoxolo Tata ugqatso lwakho ulufezile“– “Rest in peace, dad, your race is complete”. Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said Shabalala “will be kept in mind as a giant of South African music and a leader of the market”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) celebration said in a statement that the group’s “music spoke to the social truths of black cultural standards and traditions, and had the ability to expose the social conditions of black South Africans”.
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