Wormz Obituaries

Joseph Shabalala

Band: LadySmith Black Mamboza

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    Joseph Shabalala died aged seventy-nine on 11th February 2020 fromphoto of Joseph Shabalala deteriorated health in Pretoria, South Africa. He was born on 28th August 1940 in the town of Ladysmith, South Africa and his parents, raised him and his six siblings on a white-owned farm. After his father died in the late 1940s, Joseph as the eldest was required to take care of the family. Joseph did leave the farm, however, in nineteen-fifty-eight in order to search for work in the nearby city of Durban. During this time, he was spotted by a popular group, the Durban Choir, after he delighted audiences with his smooth guitar playing and soprano voice. When he joined the choir, he attempted to teach them some of his new compositions but after they refused, he left them after only two years.
    In 1958, Joseph Shabalala discovered an isicathamiya group, The Highlanders, led by his hero Galiyane Hlatshwayo. Hlatshwayo was the man who encouraged Joseph Shabalala to use his voice powerfully. Joseph formed his own group the following year called Ezimnyama, but he later renamed them Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
    After local radio airplay (on the S.A.B.C. station Radio Zulu), Joseph Shabalala accepted a recording contract that was offered in 1972 by Gallo Music producer West Nkosi. Ladysmith Black Mambazo sold over 40,000 copies of their first album and continued to do so through other recordings. In 1976, Joseph became a Christian, and the songs in the Mambazo repertoire were shuffled aside to include generalized Christian, Methodist, and Zionist hymns sung in the Zulu language.
    In 1986, Paul Simon travelled to South Africa to collaborate with South African artists for his upcoming Graceland album. Paul Simon collaborated with Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and co-composed the now-famous song, "Homeless". The group's popularity spread all over the world, and since then they have sold records popular enough to earn platinum disc certification. In 1987, Ladysmith Black Mambazo won their first solo Grammy Award for Shaka Zulu. Since then, they have won one more and have been nominated over ten times. Following the worldwide success of Graceland, Joseph Shabalala began composing more songs in English.
    On the night of 10th December 1991, Joseph's brother/group member was killed by an off-duty white security guard near the town of Ladysmith. The death was thought to be a racial murder. Joseph, helped by his beliefs, persevered, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo continued; the members now included his brother Jockey, close relatives Albert and Abednego Mazibuko, Russel Mthembu and Jabulani Dubazana and his sons Sibongiseni, Thamsanqa, Thulani and Msizi. Non-the-less, tragedy returned. In May 2002, Joseph Shabalala's wife of thirty years, Nellie, was shot and killed by an assailant outside the couple's home in Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal. Joseph Shabalala's hand was wounded in his attempt to protect his wife. The assailant was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. image of Joseph Shabalala
    The next album from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Wenyukela, was expected to have a solemn touch to it and so it did, including a tribute to Nellie. Six months after Nellie's death, Joseeph married Thoko Maduna, which was a "controversial stunt," according to the South African press. Despite this opposition, Joseph Shabalala managed to continue to carry on singing and even managed to set up the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Foundation, a music academy to promote and teach isicathamiya music to young South African children.
    Tragedy struck again in June 2004 when his brother and former Mambazo member Ben Joseph Shabalala was shot and killed by an unknown individual whilst driving his two children to school. In February 2006, his brother Jockey, his last brother in Ladysmith Black Mambazo by this time, died of natural causes at his home in Ladysmith, South Africa.
    Joseph Shabalala announced, in January 2008, that his youngest son Thamsanqa would replace him as leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, after he himself, retired from international touring.

Song: Homeless by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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