Ladysmith Black Mambazo will return to SA next week to mourn founder Joseph Shabalala

Ladysmith Black Mambazo will have to wait longer before they come back to the country to mourn their founder Joseph Shabalala.

The group’s manager Xolani Majozi said Black Mambazo had to stay longer in Chicago due to contractual obligations on the shows that were lined-up.

“We were unable to cancel some of the shows schedule until Sunday. It is only from Monday that they will be free, but they will be in the country on Wednesday,” Majozi said.

The group is on a US tour which began on January 10. They still have about 30 shows scheduled in the states. Shabalala died yesterday at the age of 79 at the Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria with his wife Thoko by his side.He started experiencing serious health problems around June. He was admitted to local hospital in Ladysmith and discharged later to recover at home.

Mshengu started singing as a teenager with the group Durban Choir and then moved to Highlander, before forming Ezimnyama in 1959. He later christened it Ladysmith Black Mambazo after his hometown.

The group’s harmonic acapella songs in Zulu became hugely popular in South Africa after the release of their debut album in 1973. It rose to super stardom in 1986 when Paul Simon recorded the Graceland album with them. The collaboration was a defining moment for Black Mambazo as it launched them internationally.

Black Mambazo have won five Grammy Awards and established its name with hits such as Mbube, Hello My Baby, Inkanyezi, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes, Nomathemba and Shosholoza.

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise said she found it poignant that Shabalala died the same day that former president Nelson Mandela was released 30 years ago.

“We share Madiba’s admiration for the group and its inspirational music. It was fitting that he called them “South Africa’s ambassadors of song”. We appreciate his popularising and taking to the international stage the centuries-old isicathamiya and mbube music, and are confident that it will live on to continue bringing hope and joy to future generations,” she said.

Shabalala’s funeral will be held on February 22.