Joseph Shabalala dies, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo
In this 2008 file photo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo founding member Joseph Shabalala gestures to the audience during the group's performance at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The founder of the South African multi-Grammy-Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, died at a hospital in the capital Pretoria Feb. 11, 2020, his family confirmed to local media. Joseph Kaczmarek | AP

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The founder of the South African multi-Grammy-Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, has died at age 78, the group and the government announced Tuesday, Feb 11.

Shabalala died at a hospital in the capital, Pretoria, Tuesday morning, his family told local media. South Africans and fans worldwide are in mourning.

He was globally known for his leadership of the choral group founded in 1964 that shot to world acclaim, collaborating with Paul Simon on the “Graceland” album and many other artists. The haunting, often a cappella singing style known as isicathamiya helped to make Ladysmith Black Mambazo one of South Africa’s most recognized performers on the world stage.

The South African government extended its condolences. “Rest in peace, you have fulfilled your purpose,” it tweeted.

Shabalala’s death was announced as the country marked 30 years since the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, which led to the end of the country’s brutal system of racial oppression known as apartheid.

“(Mandela) was a loyal follower of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who had the distinction of being part of the cultural program at the Nobel ceremony where our founding president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,” South Africa’s presidency said.

Shabalala retired from Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2014 but made occasional appearances at its events. He had been hospitalized several times since 2017.

“The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the U.S., but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” manager Xolani Majozi told local media outlet Timeslive. Majozi said the group would cut its trip short and return to South Africa.

“Our founder, our teacher and most importantly our father left us today for eternal peace,” the group said on Twitter. “We celebrate and honor 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 Communist Party tweeted:

The South African Communist Party (SACP) sends deepest condolences to the family of South African world-renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo founding member, Joseph Shabalala. In particular, we send heartfelt condolences to his wife, Thokozile Shabalala. #RIPJosephShabalala

The African National Congress tweeted: @MYANC mourns the passing of legendary musician #JosephShabalala #RIPJosephTshabalala

Joseph Shabalala Tribute Song by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Feb 12, 2020

Barbara Russum contributed to this article.


Mogomotsi Magome
Mogomotsi Magome

Associated Press journalist.