RIP Joseph Shabalala, Founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Music News
02/11/2020
Janice Headley

Joseph Shabalala, founder of the Grammy-Award-winning vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died at the age of 78. The group’s manager, Xolani Majozi, confirmed that he passed away in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, and while no official cause of death has been announced, Majozi shared that Shabalala had been suffering from complications from a back surgery in 2012 that left him wheelchair-bound. As a result of his health problems, Shabalala retired from the group in 2014, allowing his son Thamsanqa (Tommy) to take over as leader. 

"Joseph Shabalala was a rare artist whose work brought a whole nation and culture for the world to view and deeply appreciate," said KEXP DJ Darek Mazzone, host of Wo'Pop. "The vocal styling of his band, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, is recognizable on a first listen and instantly brings you a sense of happiness and peace. His work with Paul Simon on the Graceland record created an opportunity for people to hear the intrinsic beauty of South African Music and I believe led to toppling of the Apartheid regime. Having his band in for a studio session in 2016 was one of the highlights of that year for me."

While Shabalala had already retired from the band before their 2016 KEXP in-studio session, Mazzone talks to them about their founder in the interview. Watch their performance below:

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Musical lore has it that Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the iconic South African mbube group, was founded by Joseph Shabalala after having a series of dreams in which he heard their sounds. It goes unmentioned whether or not Joseph dreamt of 50 years of worldwide success as perhaps the most well-known ...


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