‘He was always singing’

2020-02-24 08:22
High profile figures who attended the funeral of Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala, were, from left: Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma’s wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s wife Sithembile, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, President Cyril Ramaphosa. They supported Shabalala’s widow Thoko, his sister-in-law, his brother Enock, Sindi Shabalala, and his son Thami’s wife. PHOTOS: Moeketsi mamane

High profile figures who attended the funeral of Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala, were, from left: Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma’s wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s wife Sithembile, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, President Cyril Ramaphosa. They supported Shabalala’s widow Thoko, his sister-in-law, his brother Enock, Sindi Shabalala, and his son Thami’s wife. PHOTOS: Moeketsi mamane

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s oldest member, Albert Mazibuko, whose group has won five Grammy awards, has attributed his success in life to the belief in the group’s founder, Joseph Shabalala, who was laid to rest in Lady­smith on Saturday.

Speaking to The Witness during Shabalala’s funeral service at the Lady­smith Indoor Sports Centre, Mazibuko said he took a gamble when he agreed to join Shabalala’s group back in 1969.

“I was a young boy dreaming of one day finding work in one of the big cities such as Durban and Johannesburg, but Joseph’s insistence that we should become professional singers saw my life taking a different course.

“The way in which he was so confident that we will one day become these big stars on the music stage convinced me to take a risky gamble. This was despite the fact that growing up in the rural areas of Ladysmith, I literally knew no one who had earned a living through singing,” he said.

Once in the group, Shabalala’s hard work and dedication rubbed off on him.

“For the many years I have known him he was always writing and singing ... He always used to tell us to practise all the time. If you visit him at home he would invite you to sing along with him — there was no time to rest.

“What made matters even worse for me is that I used to share a room with him in many of our overseas tours. He would sleep for about two hours and then wake up to write and sing. If he sees that you are getting exhausted he would say ‘We have come from afar and you can’t be tired now when we are so close to realising our dream’. He was such a determined person,” he said.

Head of the Amabutho, Mgilitshe (left), led the Zulu regiments to the funeral of Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala. 

Mazibuko was one of the thousands of mourners, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had gathered at the Ladysmith Indoor Sports Centre to bid farewell to Shabalala following the legendary singer’s death two weeks ago at the age of 78.

Addressing mourners, who included cabinet ministers, music icons such as Afropop singer Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and Sarafina hit maker Mbongeni Ngema, Ramaphosa described Shabalala as a talented artist who deserved the highest award for putting the town of Ladysmith, the KZN province and South Africa on the world map.

“I am going to be nominating ubaba Joseph Shabalala himself to be awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga in gold. If there is anyone who deserves it richly it is ubaba,” he said.

Ikhamanga in gold is the highest accolade that can be bestowed on an artist by the South African government.

President Ramaphosa joins members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and dances at the funeral. 

While Shabalala’s first song, Nomathemba, a love song, launched Ladysmith Black Mambazo onto the South African music scene, it was the song Homeless where he collaborated with American songwriter Paul Simon, which catapulted him to international stardom. Shabalala’s music, Ramaphosa said, had been successful in capturing the mood and conditions of black South Africans during apartheid.

“Indeed, our brother and father has left us to join the heavenly choir. But the imprint he has left on the music world, on this community and on our nation will continue to be felt long after he is gone,” he said.

South African singer Lebo M described Shabalala, who was buried at the Ladysmith cemetery, as a true giant.

“Long before some of us were born, [Joseph] laid a path for us to dream of success in many different ways. We’re truly honoured that we stand on the shoulders of giants. But some of us know, from within the industry, that we stand on the shoulders of an icon — a man who has turned Hollywood upside down, and the world over,” he said.

Read more on:    ladysmith  |  joseph shabalala
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