The founder of the South African multi-Grammy-Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, has died aged 78.
Shabalala died in hospital in Pretoria, on Tuesday morning, his family has confirmed.
He was world renowned for his leadership of the choral group founded in 1964 that shot to world acclaim, collaborating with Paul Simon on the Graceland album and others.
The haunting, often an a cappella singing style known as isicathamiya, helped to make the group one of South Africa’s most recognised performers on the world stage.
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. pic.twitter.com/2eDNFDUAGf
— Ladysmith Black Mambazo (@therealmambazo) February 11, 2020
The South African government in a tweet extended its condolences.
The death was announced as the country prepared to mark 30 years since the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, which led to the end of the country’s brutal system of racial oppression known as apartheid.
Shabalala retired from Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2014 but made occasional appearances at its events.
He had been hospitalised several times since 2017.
May your soul rest in peace baba Joseph Shabalala – Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder. What a legend! You took our music to the world and delivered it with such class …over and over again! You created legacy that keeps giving! 🎶 #RIPJosephShabalala #LadySmithBlackMambazo pic.twitter.com/xk9mBgkgW7
— Matiba Sibanyoni (@matibax) February 11, 2020
“The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” manager Xolani Majozi told local media outlet Timeslive.
Majozi said the group would cut its trip short and return to South Africa.