Joseph Shabalala, the founding leader of South Africa’s iconic music group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died.
He was 79. Shabalala died at after a long illness at the Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria this morning.
The legendary iscathamiya singer’s death was confirmed by the manager of Ladysmith Black Mamabazo, Xolani Majozi. According to Majozi, Shabalala’s wife was by his side when he drew his last breath.
Speaking to South African publication, The Sowetan , Majozi said,
“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 iscathamiya and took to international stages where it excelled. His was a global being.”
Speaking to the South Africa Times , Majozi added,
“Yes it’s true. Mr Shabalala passed on this morning. The group is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family.”
Joseph Shabalala founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960, and the group gained international popularity especially after working with Paul Simon in his 1986 album Graceland.
The group would go on to work with the likes of Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton among a few other global stars. They also reached number 15 in the UK charts with a cover of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Mambazo have won five Grammy Awards. Currently, the group consists of a new generation of members, a majority of them are sons of the founding members. Shabalala and a majority of the founding members were retired from performing and recording.
Shabalala retired from active performance in 2014 shortly after performing at a memorial concert for Nelson Mandela. He officially handed over leadership of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to his son Sibongiseni about three years ago although he would occasionally make appearances with the group at events.