Joseph Shabalala

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Joseph Shabalala (1941-2020) [1]. was a singer, musician, composer, choreographer and performer.


Born in the Ladysmith district in Natal,

Ezimnyama and Ladysmith Black Mambazo

In the 1970s he brought together and became the leader of the vocal group Ezimnyama ("The Black Ones"), made up of family members and friends. They became known for their 1970s hit record "Amabutho". The group later changed the name to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and would most famously work with Paul Simon on his Graceland tour and record. This made them a household name and ultimately world famous.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Their music and the musical style they developed, permeated the popular performance in the 1990s and later, also utilized in a number of stage plays and musicals.

In 1992 he and Ladysmith Black Mambazo contributed to, and performed in, an award-winning musical called The Song of Jacob Zulu created and produced by Steppenwolf Theater Company, Chicago. The play was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Music for a Play. Performers Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were received the prestigious Drama Desk Award for Best Original Score.

Shabalala's song "Nomathemba", was the inspiration for a play called Nomathemba by Steppenwolf Theater Company, Chicago, and performed in the USA in 1995. Shabalala, credited as one of the authors alongside Eric Simonson (1960-)[2] and Ntozake Shange (1948-2018)[3], was also the choreographer.


Richard Christiansen. 1995. "Nomathemba raises hopes, and fulfills them", The Chicago Tribune 10 April 1995.[4]

J. Wynn Rousuck. 1996. "Nomathemba sings of hope, wariness, Theater Review: Musical is joyous storytelling, but offers a reminder of what was in apartheid South Africa", The Baltimore Sun, 23 April, 1996[5]

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