BULAWAYO-based artists are mourning Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder, Joseph Shabalala who died last Tuesday in his home country South Africa aged 78.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s music was popular in Zimbabwe particularly in the southern region where a number of groups playing similar traditional choral music were formed. Until today, imbube music is still a popular genre in the city.
As a result tributes poured last week following the sad departure of legendary crooner.
Award-winning and well-travelled imbube outfit Black Umfolosi, which was one of the groups whose music was inspired by Shabalala, also paid their tribute.
“We are sad about his untimely departure. He is someone who contributed immensely to the entertainment industry through his creativity, particularly on imbube genre that we are also into. He was more like a brother and a partner in business.
“We made a name together in the international area where we toured many countries. If you check Black Umfolosi and Black Mambazo were popular names across the world,” Tomeki Dube, one of Black Umfolosi founders told the Daily News.
He added: “Imbube is a very old genre but Shabalala transformed the genre which made many people fall in love with it. He also opened the doors for other small groups to enter the international stage. He was an ambassador of Southern Africa. We say rest in peace Shabalala.”
Jeys Marabini, who shared and worked with Shabalala during international tours, described him as a pacesetter and an international icon.
“The world lost an icon, he is the one who took imbube music to the world. He is the one who marketed the genre across the world. I will say most of the groups here in Bulawayo who play imbube managed to travel abroad as a result of the doors that were opened by Shabalala.
“I was also blessed to have shared a stage with him in the United Kingdom at one festival, the man was so loved and popular in the world,” Marabini said.
Intwasa Arts Festival director Raisedon Baya, who has helped promote local artists within the same genre as Black Mambazo, said: “His departure is a great loss to music lovers. Shabalala touched lives with his music. He went where very few people could go, he inspired a generation of musicians and his life must be celebrated. It was a life well lived.”
Sandra Ndebele also added: “Just like Oliver Mtukudzi, he is our African hero in the music industry. Of course he specialised in imbube, but his music was appealing to all age groups and across borders that is why you realise we have many imbube groups here in Bulawayo.
“He is a real icon who left an indelible mark in the arts industry. For his exploits, we will forever remember him. We say rest in peace okaShabalala.”
UK-based Bulawayo born Afro- jazz musician Mandla Gama also added his views: “We have lost a giant. He exported little known Isichathamiya (imbube) music not only to America but the world at large. Rest in peace Mshengu! You proved it can be done despite a humble back ground.”
Dumisani Mhlanga, better known as Imbongi kaZulu, said Shabalala was the godfather of imbube.
“You can’t talk of isichathamiya anywhere and you don’t mention Shabalala’s name. He was a godfather; he made many believe that traditional music can be a source of pride for Africans. He put the African tradition on the international map, a feat that very few musicians have achieved,” he said.
Shabalala retired from active performance in 2014 shortly after performing at a memorial concert for Nelson Mandela. His children took over the band.