On Tuesday, South African musical legend Joseph Shabalala died at 78 years old. Today, we celebrate the life and achievements of the founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Here’s how Joseph Shabalala changed South Africa for the better.
He broke racial barriers
At a VERY volatile time in our history, the impact of his music was revolutionary. Needless to say, the groundbreaking album Graceland, created collaboratively by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon, was political in many ways.
During the time of recording (in the height of apartheid) there was a cultural boycott of SA. As a result, Paul Simon received lots of criticism for ignoring this. To clarify, he said that he wanted to bring South African music to the world, Channel24 reports, rather than perform in the country.
Consequently, they created an album that spoke to the essence of apartheid’s demise. For instance, the track Homeless is a stirring (and devastating) song about the lives of homeless and stateless black South Africans.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo won many Grammy Awards
Five to be exact. Plus, they were nominated for 17 Grammy Awards. So this group has no shortage of achievements.
Joseph Shabalala founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1971, reportedly after a dream he had. During the dream, he saw a group of boys floating between a stage and the sky and harmonising in traditional Zulu style.
Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala
Our Founder, our Teacher and most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace. 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. pic.twitter.com/2eDNFDUAGf
— Ladysmith Black Mambazo (@therealmambazo) February 11, 2020
He put SA music on the world stage and opened doors
Above all, Joseph Shabalala, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon opened the international stage for other South African artists. And their tour, according to the New York Times, ‘Broke new ground in exposing the mostly white audience to their country’s premier black musicians.’
Importantly, some of these musicians include the greats like guitarist Ray Phiri and Miriam Makeba. Here’s what Paul Simon had to say on social media:
‘Joseph Shabalala took Ladysmith Black Mambazo and brought their music all over the world. Imagine! What a great accomplishment for a boy from Apartheid South Africa. I admired him for his music and his Godly spirit. People love Mambazo. I love Joseph. We had a great time.’
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Joseph Shabalala took Ladysmith Black Mambazo and brought their music all over the world. Imagine! What a great accomplishment for a boy from Apartheid South Africa. I admired him for his music and his Godly spirit. People love Mambazo. I love Joseph. We had a great time. — Paul Simon
RIP Joseph Shabalala, your legacy will live on forever.
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