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February 15, 2006

Member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo dies

Jockey Shabalala, a member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, South Africa’s most famous a cappella ensemble, has died, the group’s record company said Tuesday. He was 62.

Shabalala, whose brother Joseph founded and still leads the ensemble, died Saturday of natural causes surrounded by family at his home in Ladysmith, said Mike Wilpizeski, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Heads Up International record label. He had suffered from various ailments.

Jockey Shabalala joined Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1960s and featured on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album, which won the Grammy Award for album of the year in 1986. He continued to tour and record with the group until early last year, when they won a second Grammy for their recording “Raise Your Spirit Higher.” He then retired from international travel to spend more time with his family but continued to perform in South Africa.

The group, which fuses Zulu and gospel music traditions, was touring the United States to promote their latest release, “Long Walk to Freedom,” when news of Shabalala’s death reached them. Joseph Shabalala said they would not interrupt the tour.

“We must continue to spread our culture and our message of peace, love and harmony,” he said in the statement from Cambridge, Mass. “Jockey helped me and the rest of the group on this mission for almost 40 years. As we were performing tonight’s encore song, “Amazing Grace,” ... I could hear his voice, once again, as part of our harmony. I’ll always hear his voice, even as he is now with God.” He is survived by his wife and four children.

Read the group's tour blog here

Posted by acapnews at February 15, 2006 12:01 AM