Nairobi News


Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala is dead

Legendary singer Joseph Shabalala, who created the world-famous South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, is dead.

Shabalala, 79, died on Tuesday morning in Pretoria hospital after a long illness.

The South African Government confirmed the sad news in a condolence 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,” the tweet read.

Shabalala, who was born Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala, started Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1959, and went on to win multiple awards with them.

The group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which came to Western fame for its work in 1986 Paul Simon’s Graceland album.

According to the group’s website, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been invited to perform at many special occasions across the world.

These include at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Queen of England and the Royal Family and in Rome for Pope John Paul II.

The group has also performed at two Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, during South African presidential inaugurations and the 1996 Summer Olympics.


In 2011, the group toured Kenya and headlined the Safaricom Classical Fusion Concerts at the Impala Club Grounds.

They got their name, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from various aspects of their background and culture.

Ladysmith is the name of a rural hometown of Shabalala, with black being a reference to oxen and Mambazo is the Zulu word for axe, which the group claims on its website is “a symbol of the group’s ability to ‘chop down’ any singing rival who might challenge them.”

Since its formation, the group has always been made up of several members of the Shabalala family and relatives.

In 2008, Shabalala announced that his youngest son Thamsanqa would take over as Mambazo’s musical director when the time came for him to retire from international touring.

The singer retired from active performance in 2014, but his sons continue his legacy as performers in the group.

According to South Africa’s TimeLive, Shabalala officially handed over leadership of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to his son Sibongiseni about three years ago.