Joseph Shabalala, the founder of the South African multi-Grammy Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died aged 78.
Shabalala died in hospital in the capital Pretoria on Tuesday morning, his family confirmed to local media.
He was world-known for his leadership of the choral group founded in 1964 that shot to world acclaim, collaborating with Paul Simon on the Graceland album and others.
The haunting, often a cappella singing style known as isicathamiya helped to make the group one of South Africa’s most recognised performers on the world stage.
The South African government extended its condolences in a tweet.
“Rest in peace, you have fulfilled your purpose,” it said.
The death was announced as the country prepared to mark 30 years since the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, which led to the end of the country’s brutal system of racial oppression known as apartheid.
Shabalala retired from Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2014 but made occasional appearances at their events.
He had been admitted to hospital several times since 2017.
“The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” manager Xolani Majozi told local media outlet Timeslive.
Majozi said the group would cut its trip short and return to South Africa.