SAD NEWS: World-famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala dies. He was 78

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Joseph Shabalala, who created the world-famous South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died in a Pretoria hospital.

Joseph Shabalala has died today at the age of 78.

The musician is best known for founding and directing the world-famous South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which came to Western fame for its work on Paul Simon’s Graceland album and in the 1990s Heinz beans adverts.

Joseph died on Tuesday February 11 in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa.

The South African Government confirmed the sad news in a condolence tweet, writing: “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.”

Ladysmith Black Mambazo enjoyed years of success in the UK as a result, even performing for the royal family, and collaborating with B*Witched on their single I Shall Be There, which catapulted the choir to household name fame.

In 2015, Joseph helped put together a show to celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa, which toured in the UK.

“It has always been our mission to spread our South African culture as wide as possible, so it is very important for us to bring Inala to the UK and the rest of the world,” Joseph said at the time.

“We look forward to giving our audiences a new experience.”

But Joseph’s life was also struck by tragedy.

In May 2002, his wife of 30 years Nellie – who was also the lead singer of the Women of Mambazo group – was murdered by a masked gunman outside a church.

She was shot dead in the car park, with Joseph injuring his hand as he tried to protect her.

His son Vivian Nkosinathi was accused of taking out a hit on his stepmother Nellie, but walked free after a high-profile court case when the real killer, Mboneni Mdunge, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Six months after Nellie’s murder, Joseph remarried, this time to Thoko Maduna.

But more tragedy hit the Shabalala family in June 2004 when Joseph’s brother Ben was gunned down by an unidentified killer while he was driving his two children to school.

Another brother, Jockey, died of natural causes two years later.

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

— Mirror UK


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