Grammy award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder, Joseph Shabalala. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Grammy award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder, Joseph Shabalala. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala has died. He was 78.

Shabalala was with his wife, Thokozile, when he died in a hospital in Pretoria, band manager Xolani Majozi said on Tuesday.

The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” said Majozi.

Shabalala’s family was expected to issue an official statement later on Tuesday.

“We celebrate and honour your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever,” the band said in a statement.

The group won five Grammy awards, including for their hit Homeless, and featured heavily on Paul Simon's Graceland album.  They received acclaim for their cover of Swing Low Sweet Chariot for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Shabalala’s health had deteriorated over the past few years, forcing him to retire from the group in 2014.

He was admitted to hospital in January for an undisclosed illness. Fans were asked to keep him in their prayers.

He struggled to recover from a back operation  in 2017.

Though Shabalala officially handed over leadership of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to his son, Sibongiseni, about three years ago, the singer made several appearances with the group at events.