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Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala has died

The pioneering South African group won five Grammys and toured with Paul Simon.

February 11, 2020
Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala has died STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images  

Joseph Shabalala, South African musician and founder of the male vocal harmony group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has passed away at the age of 78 according to reports in the BBC and Associated Press. A cause of death was not revealed.

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Shabalala formed Lady Smith Black Mambazo in 1960. The group blended traditional Zulu melodies with the indigenous vocal style of Isicathamiya, and became renowned in South Africa with the release of the 1973 debut album Amabutho. Since then, Black Mambazo has won five Grammy Awards for Best World Music Album, and received global attention in 1986 when Paul Simon enlisted the group to work on his massively successful 1986 album Graceland.

In 2014, Shabalala retired from the group and passed leadership over to his son, Thamsanqa. "We celebrate and honor your kind heart and your extraordinary life," the group wrote in a statement on Tuesday. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever." Read that statement in full below:

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala has died