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Ladysmith Black Mambazo Founder, Joseph Shabalala Dies At 78

Joseph Shabalala | Image: Daneloo

Joseph Shabalala, the founder of South African Grammy-Award-winning male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died at age 78, the state broadcaster reported Tuesday.

Shabalala died at a hospital in the capital, Pretoria, Tuesday morning, his family confirmed to local media.


The music group’s manager Xolani Majozi told local media outlet Timeslive:

“The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family.”

Majozi said the group would cut its trip short and return to South Africa.

The South African government extended its condolences in a tweet:

“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. #RIPJosephShabalala”

Born Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala in 1941. Shabalala founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960. The group became known internationally after singing with American singer Paul Simon on his 1986 album Graceland. The group have won multiple awards, including five Grammy Awards, the fifth which they dedicated to the late former President Nelson Mandela.

Shabalala retired from the group in 2014 due to his deteriorating health.

Timeslive reported that earlier this year, Shabalala was admitted to hospital due to ill health, and those close to him asked fans to keep him in their prayers.

In 2017, Shabalala was admitted to hospital after his health took a nosedive after he underwent spine surgery and “struggled” to get back on his feet.

“He is old now. We were worried when he went in for the operation, and are still very concerned because he is sick, but he is getting stronger,” spokesperson Sandile Khumalo said at the time.

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