Ladysmith Black Mambazo release tribute song after death of founder

Joseph Shabalala, who created the South African vocal group, has died aged 78

LADYSMITH BLACK Mambazo have paid tribute to their founder, Joseph Shabalala, by releasing a special song following his death aged 78.

Yesterday it was confirmed that Shabalala had died at a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa. His cause of death has not yet been made public.

The vocal group, who are currently on tour in the US, shared the song, which they performed at a concert yesterday, with fans via their website and YouTube channel.

In a statement published on its website, Ladysmith Black Mambazo said: “Our Founder, our Teacher and most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace. We celebrate and honour your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever.”

The South African government also expressed its condolences.

In a statement it said: “The whole nation mourns this talented icon, whose music not only put South Africa on the global stage but also could be heard in the suburbs, townships, villages all corners of our country.”

It added: “His passing is a great loss not only to his family but to the music industry, the country, and the international stage at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten.”

Shabalala founded the South African vocal group in 1964, naming it Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with each word having its own significance. Ladysmith to represent his hometown, Black after the ox (considered the strongest farm animal) and Mambazo, the Zulu word for axe, to symbolise the group’s ability to cut through the competition.

The group’s isicathamiya style of singing, traditional music developed by black workers in the South African mines, and accompanying dances, captivated the world and propelled Zulu music to new audiences.

They achieved international recognition when they collaborated with American singer-songwriter Paul Simon, one half of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, on his Graceland album in 1986.

Hit films including The Lion King and Coming to America featured the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and they appeared in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

In 1973 Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Amabutho became the first African album to achieve a gold certification award. The group won its first Grammy in 1987 for its Shaka Zulu album, and went on to win four more in 2004, 2008 and 2013 and 2017.

They reached Number 15 in the UK singles charts with their cover of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Number 2 in the album chart with The Star and Wiseman, a best of compilation, in 1998.

Shabalala retired from the group in 2014.

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