WATCH | Fitting tribute for KZN music legend Joseph Shabalala

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An unveiling ceremony was held for Professor Joseph Shabalala on Saturday in Ladysmith
An unveiling ceremony was held for Professor Joseph Shabalala on Saturday in Ladysmith

The KZN Government's Executive Council paid a fitting tribute and monument unveiling at Ladysmith Cemetery, on Saturday morning for legendary musician and leader of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Professor Joseph Shabalala. 

The Department of Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala with family and friends of Professor Shabalala were among guests at the unveiling.  

The Executive Council welcomed the honour bestowed on the late leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 

Through his music, Professor Shabalala left an indelible mark on South African society. His music has inspired countless people around the world and united South Africans.

It is hoped that the monument will serve to inspire countless of young people to learn about the legendary music icon and follow in his giant footsteps.

Shabalala, 79,  died on February 11, 2020. 

Speaking at the unveiling,  the KZN Premier said called Shabalala the "gentle giant of Mnambithi".

"Mshengu was magnanimous. Mshengu was the very meaning and embodiment of love. Mshengu gave everything in service of his nation and never asked for anything in return.

"If as a people and a government we erect a stone to mark his final place of rest, it is actually us who are grateful that we could be part of such an important national task. It is us that Mshengu and his family have truly honoured for allowing us an opportunity to express our undying love and appreciation to this hero of the African people.

"In unveiling his memorial, we are doffing our hats off for a global cultural icon who made isicathamiya to be acclaimed on our continent and all corners of the globe. In so doing, we also pay respect to tata Madiba who cherished the music and performance of Ladysmith Black Mambazo," said Zikalala.

"Recently, on the 18th of November 2021, Professor Shabalala was honoured by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa with the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold for excelling in the fields of arts, culture and music.

"Mshengu was an expert in indigenous knowledge systems, African wisdoms, and was a walking encyclopaedia on Zulu history and music. He was a proud Zulu man who celebrated his culture and the ways of his people. Believing in the dreams of his ancestors and heavenly angels, like the Biblical Joseph, he had a dream and a vision to use isicathamiya to unite his nation and promote peace.

"He had a dream and a vision to show that if he could succeed with his treasured group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he could inspire the children of our rural hinterland and townships that they too could dream and use the power of culture to heal our nation and eke out a living for themselves."

Zikalala said true to his name Bhekizizwe, he was at the forefront of using his artistic gifts to point South Africans from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds on the importance of social cohesion, reconciliation, and working together for our collective development.

"Mshengu and Ladysmith broke all musical records in South Africa and Africa by becoming the first group to win six Grammy Award, a rare feat in the musical sphere.

"In his songs, Mshengu highlighted the plight of gold and diamond miners who suffered hardships while digging for precious metals in the bowels of the earth, risking life and limb.

"His music opened hearts of the world and the global family of nations welcomed him and his Amambazo Amnyama with warm hands.

"Although Mshengu and Ladysmith Black Mambazo felt at home in all corners of the globe, Mshengu did not forsake the downtrodden and the homeless. Migrants and the wretched of the earth featured prominently in his award-winning songs, thus making uMshengu and Amambazo the voice of the voiceless. Even though uMshengu witnessed the brutality of the apartheid regime, he did not harbour hatred and bitterness in his heart.

"Through his songs, Mshengu turned Ladysmith and by extension KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa into a prominent cultural heritage destination. His songs raised hope where despair reigned supreme.

Scholars across the world have published studies about him, isicathamiya, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Isicathamiya and the history of the group is taught at high schools and universities all over the world."

He paid tribute to Shabalala as an unrivaled storyteller, exceptional performer, and gifted music composer, saying his compositions planted love, harmony and peace in a garden that was fertile ground for hatred and hostility.

"As a South African and African ambassador, Mshengu exported African ubuntu and hospitality in all corners of the globe. He greeted in IsiZulu, thanked audiences in the language, and was at ease singing in his mother tongue. In unveiling the stone in his honour, we are celebrating a life of an icon, a repository of history and African traditions who had the foresight and courage to sing songs that motivated Africans to love themselves. As the people of KwaZulu-Natal, we will always honour him for singing songs that discouraged political violence and intolerance, reminding us we are one nation."

He urged the surviving members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to continue to preach peace, love and unity in deed and in words.

"Our province needs to hear this message more than ever before. When people of the world think of KwaZulu-Natal, they must remember that we are the home of a peace ambassador and musical genius, Professor Joseph Shabalala.

"Working with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and other artists, we must compose an epic song for peace. Together, we must work tirelessly for peace and development in KwaZulu-Natal. We must refuse to be associated with violence, crime, murder, looting, and destruction of property.

"In memory of Professor Shabalala, we must build bridges of peace so that the world can see Ladysmith and KZN as the mecca of peace. Working with our artists, we must have the KwaZulu-Natal peace festival and invite the nations of the world to come learn from us how we are able to unite people, reconcile them, and forge sustainable peace. In this regard, I also wish to challenge Ladysmith Black Mambazo and all our artists to use their creativity to touch the hearts of our men to end the abuse and murder of women and girls."

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