ladysmith black mambazo joseph shabalala

Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, died in February. Image via Twitter @PresidencyZA

Just in: Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who is currently on tour in the United States, have been informed of the passing of the choral group’s founder.

ladysmith black mambazo joseph shabalala

Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, died in February. Image via Twitter @PresidencyZA

Joseph Shabalala, the mastermind behind South Africa’s most decorated music group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has passed away at the age of 79.

Joseph Shabalala passing owed to deteriorating health

As reported by Times Live, Joseph Shabalala spent his last moments with his wife, Thokozile, beside him. The family has yet to issue a formal statement, but it has been confirmed that Shabalala’s passing is tied to long-term health issues he has battled with for many years.

Thokozile indicated that Ladysmith Black Mambazo is currently on tour in the United States (US) and has been informed of the founder’s passing.

“Yes, it’s true. Mr Shabalala passed on this morning. The group [Ladysmith Black Mambazo] is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” she said.

A brief history on Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Shabalala will forever be remembered for his impact on a global scale. He is credited as the founder and musical director of the choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Ladysmith is an ode to the town in KwaZulu-Natal where he was born and raised, and “Black Mambazo” (“Black Axe”) was a way of instilling fear in contestants who came up against the group at isicathamiya competitions in the 1960s.

Shabalala transformed this group of choral singers from regional champions to a world-renowned brand that has won countless Grammy awards.

Some of the group’s most notable achievements include:

  • The 1986 release of Homeless, a song by Paul Simon featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo that garnered international acclaim;
  • The group’s first Grammy Award for Shaka Zulu in 1987;
  • A total of five Grammy awards in their collection and 16 nominations;
  • Four-time winners at the South African Music Awards (Samas);
  • On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom received nominations for Best Short Documentary Film at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; and
  • Released more than 50 albums, many of which have reached gold and platinum status.

Shabalala’s health complications forced him to retire from the group in 2014. While he still held a great influence in the group’s musical direction, the leadership duties were passed down to his son, Sibongiseni.

When is Joseph Shabalala’s funeral?

The Shabalala family has yet to issue details on the music icon’s funeral arrangements. By virtue of his status, it is believed that the state could become involved in some capacity.

The government issued a statement, sending its condolences to the Shabalala family for their loss.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo manager Xolani Majozi described the passing of Shabalala as a great loss to the global music community.

“Bab’ Shabalala was a legend of this lifetime, and it will take time to raise a person of his calibre. His is the greatest loss to the entertainment industry and to the world. He raised the standard of the isicathamiya and took to international stages where it excelled. His was a global being,” he told Sowetan Live