Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala passes away aged 78

Image credit: Twitter/SAMRO

Joseph Shabalala, the founder of the legendary musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has passed away at the age of 78.

Shabalala passed away on Tuesday morning at the Life Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria, according to the group’s manager Xolani Majozi. He said Shalabala’s wife, Thokozile, was by his side during his final moments.

The talented vocalist and guitarist had battled ill health for several years and retired from the group in 2014. His son Sibongiseni Shabalala took over its leadership.

4 Grammy Awards

Joseph Shabalala led Ladysmith Black Mambazo to global stardom, winning four Grammy Awards in the process.

He was born in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1941. He first joined the Durban Choir, but left them after just two years.

He formed his own musical group, Ezimnyama, in 1959 after taking up isicathamiya, a distinctive a cappella singing style.

Shabalala renamed his group to Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960 after achieving success in local isicathamiya weekly competitions.

Rise to stardom

Ladysmith Black Mambazo soon signed its first recording contract in 1972, selling more than 40,000 records from its first album.

American musician Paul Simon collaborated with the group and co-composed the popular song Homeless in 1986.

As its popularity grew throughout the world, the group won its first Grammy Award for Shaka Zulu in 1987.

It now includes Shabalala’s sons Sibongiseni, Msizi, Thulani, and Thamsanqa as well as other close relatives.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is currently touring the United States. Majozi said they have been informed and are “devastated.”

Majozi also said Shabalala’s family will issue a formal statement on his passing later on Tuesday.

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