Condolences pour in for Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala

Joseph Shabalala. Picture: Supplied
Joseph Shabalala. Picture: Supplied

Condolences are streaming in for the founding member of isicathamiya and mbube music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, following news of his passing on Tuesday morning.

Channel24 reported that the former lead singer died at Life Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria on Tuesday. He was 78.

Shabalala had retired from the band and had been battling an illness since December, it was reported.

His death has send shock waves through the country, with some people taking to social media to pass their condolences.

Government on Twitter said: “We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of Joseph Shabalala who was the founder of the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Ulale ngoxolo Tata ugqatso lwakho ulufezile.”

The DA caucus in the Gauteng provincial legislature said: “His music and legacy will live forever.” The IFP posted an image of the singer with the words “rest in peace”.

The EFF in a statement said Shabalala led the group into prominence and played a significant role in promoting social cohesion. 

“Their music spoke to the social realities of black cultural norms and traditions, and was able to bring to light the social conditions of black South Africans. The ability to thrive in the arts during the repressive Apartheid era and build a formidable unit such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo places Shabalala amongst the ranks of Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuza.”

Shabalala, who was born on August 28 in 1941, led the band across the globe with shows in England, the US, France, Italy and Germany.

Their accolades include five Grammy Awards, four SA Music Awards as well as sold-out world tours.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Picture: Jabulani Langa

His son Thulani Shabalala, in an interview with City Press in 2015, said his father used to dream of the harmonies they made and he has continued to make that dream a reality.

“iMambazo was started by our father [Joseph], who said he heard the music and harmonies in his dreams, and he decided to follow that dream and make the music he was hearing,” he said at the time.

“He always said the music wasn’t his own intelligence, but a gift he must stay true to, and that’s how we have kept going. We stayed true to the dream and this gift, and when he decided to leave the group so he could rest, he told us to stay true to the sound – and that’s what we’ve done.”

Shabalala’s other Sibongiseni is now the lead singer of the group. A third son Thamsanqa Shabalala, also followed in his father’s footsteps and has been a member of Black Mambazo. They have all worked with their father since they were young.

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