Zimbabwe: We Miss You Legend Shabalala

Joseph Shabalala, who created the world-famous South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died.
13 February 2020

I am still reeling from shock following Joseph Shabalala's death on February 11, 2020. It is at times like this that one feels words alone are not enough to describe emotions.

Of course, his loss is greater to his immediate family, but it is also of seismic proportions to some of us lucky enough to have worked with him personally in professional circles.

Some of his fans may recall I compered the Zimbabwe leg of Paul Simon's Graceland Tour in 1987 at Rufaro Stadium, Harare.

I had of course heard of him and played much of his music on air before.

One of my anecdotal favourites with an old broadcaster colleague, Luke Mnkandhla, was "Hello My Baby"! We used to banter around a lot mimicking his lyrics and dance moves, to much amusement between us.

I also had played his videos many a time on my musical shows at ZTV.

When the Graceland Tour project came up, I was in a vantage point to not only compère the show, but to also meet and interview Joseph with some of the guys from Ladysmith Black Mambazo -- Paul Simon, Miriam Makeba, possibly Dorothy Masuka and many others as my memory is now understandably foggy on line up.

I know Ray Phiri and Stimela members were involved too, and in fact the bassist, Bakiti Khumalo, went on to be recruited for a long association with Paul Simon!

What a thundering bass he plays!

Let's not forget our own local talent that was involved too, most of whom I had met already before, like Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits. I can't remember if Thomas Mapfumo was on board at this particular juncture, because often what would happen is there would be various opening acts before the main act at these music festivals!

I shall leave those anecdotes for another day . . .

Today belongs to Bhudhi Joseph.

I found him very humble, sociable and a great laugh. Interviewing him was a breeze because he was very personable, and off camera or microphone, we joked and fooled around.

I would often watch them rehearse just before going on stage at Rufaro, and he seemed to have a very good rapport with his band mates. His voice and dancing prowess shone through even when they were not live!

I think those moments are the priceless ones for me, as they were unrecorded performances, and were privy to the lucky few to be around him.

These memories are treasured, and am sure there will be many more people who will have their own more informed perspectives about this great fallen talent.

It was great to have enjoyed your music as well as your company when I did, Bhudhi Joseph. Earth's loss is heaven's gain. You may have left us, but your legacy lives on in your music, and long may it live!

And for all my sins, I count myself extremely privileged and humbled to have known you then!


John Matinde is a veteran broadcaster who used to present one of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's most popular TV programmes "Sounds on Saturday" in the 1980s.

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