President Cyril Ramaphosa joins in a dance on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo as they perform during their leader Joseph Shabalala’s funeral in Ladysmith yesterday. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa joins in a dance on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo as they perform during their leader Joseph Shabalala’s funeral in Ladysmith yesterday. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala leaves song in SA’s heart

By Nkululeko Nene Time of article published Feb 23, 2020

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Ladysmith - President Cyril Ramaphosa joined thousands of mourners who gathered at the Ladysmith Indoor Centre on Saturday for the funeral of Joseph Shabalala, 78.

Speaking at the State funeral, which was attended by politicians and dignitaries from the US, Ramaphosa hailed Shabalala for his resilience and determination to succeed against the odds. He said Shabalala, the founder of the Grammy Award-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, would be nominated for the Order of Ikhamanga for excellence in the arts.

“He was a prolific composer, multi-talented singer, an accomplished choreographer. He was a man of quintessential standings, an ambassador of our time. The community can hold its head up for raising a legend,” he said.

Ramaphosa said when he travelled the world, people often spoke highly of the group, which became famous after touring with Paul Simon for Graceland.

He applauded Shabalala for assembling the most beautiful voices without using instruments.

He said hostel dwellers would sing a cappella music (Isicathamiya) in low voices while tiptoeing because the noise was not allowed in the mines.

“He has made us proud of our indigenous languages,” he said.

Shabalala’s eldest son, Nkosinathi, said his father taught him many life lessons. “My heart sank when I saw him in his last days. His body was frail.

“He is now relieved from pain and sorrow,” he said.

Fellow artist Mbongeni Ngema said he grew up with Shabalala in the Clermont township outside Pinetown. Ngema said he advised Shabalala to distribute his music overseas because it was listened to by dominant music artists in Philadelphia.

“When I travelled overseas, I brought his music along. The feedback was awesome. It was listened to by great artists who enjoyed the rhythm although they could not understand the lyrics,” he said.

Shabalala leaves his wife, Thoko Shabalala, seven children and close to 60 grandchildren.

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