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Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala dies age 78

By Mirror | February 11th 2020
By Mirror | February 11th 2020
Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala.

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

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."

Joseph, who was born Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala, started Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1959, and went on to win multiple awards with them.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo found global fame in 1986 with Paul Simon's Graceland album.

When Joseph met Paul they hugged - he was the first white man Joseph had ever embraced.

The group's UK popularity was boosted again in 1997 when their song Inkanyezi Nezazi (The Star and the Wiseman) appeared in an advert for Heinz baked beans.

The studio version, recorded in 1992, was released as a single off the back of the ad's popularity and shot to #2 in the UK charts.

A compilation record - The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo - The Star and the Wiseman - was then released and sold a million copies in the UK, going triple-platinum.

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.

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