Zim Artistes Wail for Shabalala
12 February 2020
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Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Zimbabwean artistes are mourning after the death of Imbube/Isicathamiya Lady Smith Black Mambazo group founder Joseph Shabalala, saying Africa and the world had lost a gem.

Shabalala (78) died on Tuesday morning in Pretoria, South Africa. He had retired from music in 2014 due to health reasons.

Through his group, Shabalala won five Grammy awards. Zimbabweans knew more about Lady Smith Black Mambazo and Shabalala through the late Dr Oliver Mtukudzi. They did collaborations such as a remix of the all-time classic Neria released in 2018 and Hello My baby in 2016.
Mtukudzi’s former manager Walter Wanyanya said the last time Tuku and Shabalala met was in July 2018.

“When we went to South Africa to shoot the music video for Neria and after it being shot, Dr Tuku insisted on us visiting Shabalala. He wasn’t feeling well at that time. It was quite an experience for me, it was very surreal. He couldn’t talk much and what was weird for me was that he could sing. So, him and Dr Tuku were singing most of the time of our visit there,” said Wanyanya.

Lady Smith’s influence saw the formation of numerous groups such as Black Umfolosi, Indosakusa: The Morning Star and all female group Nobuntu.

Indosakusa: The Morning Star founder Oscar Siziba, said they were deeply hurt by Shabalala’s death.

He shared that Shabalala composed and featured on a song called Wob’yoyo ubuye from their Amaqinga aphelile album released in 2013 when they were called Impumelelo Shining Stars. Shabalala also produced it. They recorded the album at United Rhythm Studio which is owned by Mtshengiseni Shabalala of Umaqondana fame. Mtshengiseni is younger brother to Joseph.

“Such a great man who in 2013 featured on our album, which was an honour. He was a perfectionist when he was producing it. One lasting memory he left us with was three Ps, Prayer, Practice and Patience. He’s more than a father, a mentor and teacher. We knew him personally,” said Siziba.

He said they were working on travelling to South Africa to pay their last respects.

“We want to go and pay respects to such a great man who took time to mentor us and even collaborate with the group. We are hurt by his death that has robbed the world of a man who made isicathamiya such a great genre to listen to and was given five Grammy Awards,” said Siziba.

Black Umfolosi founding member Tomeki Dube described Shabalala as a world icon that would be sadly missed.

“Shabalala is an icon in this genre. We shall remember all he did for the genre and even us as Black Umfolosi we used to refer to his music. We developed a unique style of music just because of studying Black Mambazo and Shabalala,” said Dube.

He said they were also considering travelling to South Africa to mourn with the family, Shabalala’s death.

South Africa based Amavevane who met Shabalala in 2015 described him as a welcoming man.

“We met him with my group Amavevane in 2015. We were honoured. We know one of his sons and we asked him to see his father and he agreed. That was one of the special moments in our lives. Shabalala was friendly and welcoming and he said he was happy that people were united in keeping isicathamiya music alive,” said Amavevane leader Future Ndebele.

He said he would cherish the advice he was given by Shabalala. “We’ll forever remember him for the work that he did, not for us but everyone who follows isicathamiya.

“I asked for advice from him. He said as the leader of the group I should have vision and perseverance in order to give direction to the group. That I’ve cherished ever since,” said Ndebele. State media/Chronicle