June 22, 2004 by

Ben Shabalala


Categories: Musicians

Ben Shabalala, a former Ladysmith Black Mambazo singer, was murdered on June 16. Shabalala was shot and killed while dropping his children off at school. He was in his late 40s.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, South Africa’s most famous a cappella ensemble, was founded by Shabalala’s brother Joseph, who still leads the group. Ben joined Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1979, and spent the next 14 years recording traditional music known as isicathamiya, a gospel/pop mixture born in the mines of South Africa. Ben sang on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album and on the group’s record, “Shaka Zulu,” which won a Grammy Award in 1987 for best traditional folk album.

Ben retired from the band in 1993 to spend more time with his family. He was shot and killed last Wednesday in Durban, South Africa; the case is currently under investigation. The Shabalala family has faced tragedy before. In 2002, Joseph Shabalala’s wife Nellie was murdered by a masked gunman. No one was ever convicted of the crime.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is currently on tour to promote the CD “Raise Your Spirit Higher.” The group has announced plans to continue its world tour to honor Ben’s memory.

Shaka Zulu Download Songs From “Shaka Zulu”

[Update – Nov. 22, 2004: Seven prisoners awaiting trials escaped from their Cato Manor police cells on Nov. 21. Among them were Gcolo Zuma and Themba Shazi, two men suspected in the killing of Ben Shabalala. Hijacking was alleged to be the motive for the murder.]

3 Responses to Ben Shabalala

  1. Serge

    Such a great loss for our mother Africa’s most influential voice. My deep thoughts and heart go to Joseph, LSBM singers and all their loved ones.
    “We shall, – indeed -, overcome one day” because of men of honour and love like you.

  2. Siege

    Quite a few years have passed since this sad event. Still, I think of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and frequently include their music in some part of my day. I think of Ben and of how badly I felt when I heard the news here, in my small-town, Eastern Ontario, Canada. To Joseph and the rest of LSBM, You and your beautiful music will always be a part of my life. You made me fall in love with Africa. R.I.P. Ben.

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