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Wednesday, February 12, 2020


(Joseph Shabalala. Pic – Gallo Images)

Acclaimed and highly respected icon, Joseph Shabalala died on February 11, 2020, at the age of 78 in the Life Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria.

A legend in the field of isicathamiya music, Shabalala founded the internationally famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo which has won five Grammy Awards and was nominated for a total of 18 other awards. These include 16 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award and one Emmy Award.

Born in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on August 28, 1941, Shabalala’s musical ability was recognised by the Durban Choir in 1958. He formed a group called Ezimnyama (The Black Ones) and in 1960 he renamed them Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His choral group acquired an international following and won Grammys after collaborating with Paul Simon on the album Graceland.

Film producer, Anant Singh paid the following tribute:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Joseph Shabalala. I had the privilege of working with him on the music of our film, Cry, The Beloved Country, and we remained firm friends over the years.

As the founder of  Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he and the group flew the South African flag high in the international arena and took the indigenous isicathamiya form to the world. Both he and the group were justly rewarded, being recognized with numerous awards, including receiving the coveted Grammy Awards on numerous occasions.

With his roots as a son of KwaZulu-Natal, he rose to become global musical icon.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the Shabalala family and the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I wish them strength during this difficult time.”

Chris Ntuli, leader and founder of Durban Black Drifters who generated the Isicathamiya High Schools Competition, paid this tribute:

“It is so sad that a man whom I worked with and who taught me so much is no more. I have no words to describe the friendship that I had with Mr Shabalala. To his family and friends I say we have lost a legend. Hamba kahle Joseph. See you in heaven. “Sobonana ezulwini”, like you said in your song.