KWAZULU-Natal Premier Mr Sihle Zikalala has expressed his deepest condolences following the passing away of Dr Joseph Shabalala, the legendary leader of the Grammy Award-winningIsicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Shabalala passed away after a long illness, at the age of 78, at a hospital in Pretoria. Shabalala, whose demise coincided with the 30thanniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, enjoyed a unique and special place in the country’s constellation of influential artists.
He had the rare distinction of having steered Ladysmith Black Mambazo to unprecedented glory when they became the first African musical outfit to win a Grammy Award in 1987.
This was after their collaboration with Paul Simon on the seminal Graceland album, which produced global hits such as Homeless andDiamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s musical excellence under Shabalala’s tutelage saw them garner a total of five Grammy Awards, and a number of other accolades.
The group was once described by President Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s “ambassadors of song."
Reacting to Shabalala’s passing today, Premier Zikalala said: “This is indeed a very sad day in our country’s history. Ubaba uMshengu was like no other. He was a unique and inimitable artist whose musical brilliance helped him break new ground.
"He rose from humble beginnings and, through his steely resolve, used his amazing talents to showcase South Africa to the world during the height of the State of Emergency.
"Those were difficult times of institutionalised racial segregation, when Africans still had a number of hurdles to overcome before they could make it internationally, and get their much-deserved recognition.
"Through his exploits, he flew the country’s flag – and indeed that of the continent – very high, and helped inspire millions of people, showing them that if you work hard, anything is possible.
"He lived an exemplary life underpinned by exceptional values, including a generosity of spirit that saw him groom his own sons and relatives to ensure that they carried on with the legacy of the group. He had time-honoured traits of humility, self-respect, and continued dedication to his cause, which manifested through the music that he continued to produce over many decades.
"Even when his health was failing him, due to the unstoppable ravages of time, you could see that even then he was finding it difficult to leave the stage.
"For him to leave us on the same day that Mandela was freed from prison 30 years ago is a significant and poignant metaphor of his own freedom from the physical pain that he has endured over the past few years. Indeed, a baobab has fallen. Our hearts go out to the Mshengu family. We wish them all the strength that they need to muster at this difficult time, " said Premier Zikalala.
Premier Zikalala will lead a delegation that will visit the Mshengu family in due course.
The Premier has, meanwhile, delegated Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation MEC Ms Hlengiwe Mavimbela to be government’s point of contact with the family.
The Premier has expressed condolences to the Mshengu family, his children, friends and relatives on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government. The Premier also wish the family strength in their time of loss.
ISSUED BY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT
For inquiries, contact:
KZN Provincial Government Spokesman
082 884 2403
KZN Premier Media Liaison
083 253 0748