Condolences and well wishes have been pouring in following the death of South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala, who died at the age of 78.
The musician died on Tuesday at the Life Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria.
The group’s manager Xolani Majozi said that Shabalala, 78, was suffering from complications from back surgery in 2012 which left him wheelchair bound.
South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the family and friends of the veteran choral maestro as well as the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
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Ramaphosa, who visited Shabalala in April last year, said: “The passing of Joseph Shabalala is a terribly sad moment for a nation and a world in whose ears the isicathamiya and mbube crafted by Ladysmith Black Mambazo will ring for generations to come. Today the spirit of Joseph Shabalala is united with that of our great leader, Nelson Mandela, whose release from prison we are commemorating.”
The president added that Mandela was a loyal follower of the music group and added that Ladysmith Black Mambazo had the distinction of being part of the cultural programme at the Nobel ceremony where the late president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The acclaim which has earned the group recognition and countless awards at home and abroad is evidence of the ability of Joseph Shabalala and his group to touch and unite people around the country and globally.”
South Africa Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa tweeted that a musical giant has fallen and that Shabalala created music that transcended racial barriers.
South Africa Political parties shared their minister’s sentiments.
“As its founder, Shabalala led Ladysmith Black Mambazo into prominence, the group has played a significant role in promoting social cohesion through the arts and has brought national pride to South Africa by winning various international awards,” EFF national spokesperson Vuyani Pambo said in a statement.
“Their music spoke to the social realities of black cultural norms and traditions, and was able to bring to light the social conditions of black South Africans.
The ability to thrive in the arts during the repressive apartheid era and build a formidable unit, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo places Shabalala amongst the ranks of Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse,” Pambo said.
Congress of the People (Cope) said it was a sad day for the country.
“Mr Shabalala and his group Ladysmith Black Mambazo have flown the flag of South Africa internationally, winning numerous awards. Mr Shabalala will go down in history as a music legend who was very proud of his culture and his language and was never shy or ashamed to promote his isiZulu language through music,” Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said.
South African Opposition DA also paid tribute to Shabalala.
“The DA extends its sincere sympathies to the wife, Thokozile Shabalala, family and the whole music fraternity. We hope the group will continue his legacy. Ulale ngoxolo Mshengu Shabalala,” DA KZN leader Zwakele Mncwango said in a statement.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) sent its condolences to the musician’s family in a tweet, saying that he was a recipient of the Ubuntu Arts and Culture Award.
The South African government on its Twitter account also passed on its condolences to the musician’s family, saying in isiXhosa that Shabalala should rest in peace as his race was completed.
The Portfolio Committee on Sport, Arts and Culture, however, called on South Africans not to mourn, but celebrate Shabalala’s life.
“The passing of this gallant South African and distinguished artist is something that the country should use to mobilise against its challenges and foster social cohesion. It is so fortunate that Mr Shabalala’s distinctive voice and his legacy will remain with us for eternity,” chairperson Beauty Dlulane said in a statement.
The Jacob Zuma Foundation said in a statement Shabalala played a pivotal role in the shaping the country’s music industry.
“May God strengthen the family during this sad time. Be assured Mshengu fought a good fight, he ran his race successfully. Isicathamiya is on the world map because of Baba Mshengu. This international icon and a world leader had a bigger vision than what we all understood isicathamiya to be.
“We hope and pray that his teachings will forever remain in our hearts and minds so as to continue to champion his vision as a father, as a teacher and as a musician,” the foundation said.
Ladysmith Blacksmith Mambazo won five Grammy Awards. In 1986 the group collaborated with Paul Simon on his Graceland album.
In October 2008, Ladysmith Black Mambazo was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga.