South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday expressed his “deep sadness” at this week’s passing of Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala at a Pretoria hospital after a long illness.
“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,” Ramaphosa said.
The president offered his deep condolences to the family and friends of the 78-year-old veteran choral maestro as well as the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo which has, as a group, been in existence for six decades.
Shabalala’s passing came as the world marked the 30th anniversary of the late icon and statesman Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on 11 February 1990 in Cape Town.
“The spirit of Joseph Shabalala has been united with that of our great leader, Nelson Mandela,” Ramaphosa said.
He said Mandela was a loyal follower of Ladysmith Black Mambazo who had the distinction of being part of the cultural programme at the Nobel Peace Prize giving ceremony where South Africa’s founding president was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ramaphosa said Ladysmith Black Mambazo richly deserved the National Order of Ikhamanga which the choral group received in October 2008.
Shabalala was born on 28 August 1941 and was well known for his unique bass vocals in the all-male acapella group that uses traditional music for its compositions.
The group achieved international fame when they collaborated with US superstar Paul Simon on his bestselling Graceland album in 1986 and scooped five Grammy Awards, with the latest as recent as 2018 for Best World Music Album.