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Joseph Shabalala Of Ladysmith Black Mambazo Dies At 78
The group confirmed the news on social media. "Our Founder, our Teacher and most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace," a post said on Twitter. "We celebrate and honor your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever."
No cause of death was released, but the singer's health had been deteriorating in the last years. Shabalala died in Pretoria, South Africa. Although he retired from the group in 2014, he made occasional appearances with the group.
Shabalala, born Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala Aug. 28, 1941, began making music in the 1960s, after working at a farm as a 14-year-old following his father's death. He also worked as a mechanic before he founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo, named after his hometown of Ladysmith. The group got their first record contract in 1970 after appearing on a radio broadcast. Ladysmith Black Mambazo would go on to gain acclaim for their South African sound, not just in their country but all over the world.
In the U.S., Ladysmith Black Mambazo was most known for their collaboration on Paul Simon's 1980s album Graceland. They also collaborated with Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder and Melissa Etheridge. The group's voice also became widely recognized for their song "Upendi" on The Lion King II: Simba's Pride soundtrack. About their influence on the world, Shabalala felt the music went beyond the group.
"I realize that this music which we have helped to develop is part of our heritage, however, it is not bound to Ladysmith, it is not bound to Kwa Zulu, it is not bound to South Africa, music is universal, it knows no boundaries,” he said.
The group won their first GRAMMY for their song "Shaka Zulu" during the 30th GRAMMY Awards in the Best Traditional Folk Recording category. They have been nominated 17 times.