‘Ladysmith Black Mambazo gave hope to migrant workers during apartheid’

Joseph Shabalala
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The Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal says the isichathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo gave hope to migrant workers during the apartheid period in the 1960s.

The department has paid tribute to founder Joseph Shabalala who passed away in Pretoria on Tuesday at the age of 78.

UKZN’s Professor Sihawu Ngubane says the music was one of the ways of destressing from the hard work migrant workers used to do during the times of apartheid.

He says: “I think it was a form of recreating, it was a movement. Isichathamiya was not just a genre but it was a movement because it was part of the struggle at that time.”

“It is obvious when you look at his first album Shaka Zulu where he had the hit song uNomathemba. uNomathemba is not just a girl’s name but it symbolised freedom.”

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has urged the country’s youth to emulate Shabalala by taking South Africa’s cultural music abroad.

Contralesa president Kgosi Larmeck Mokoena says the whole world is aware of isichathamiya music because Shabalala was not ashamed of his culture.

He says: “We are saddened by his passing because he was one of the best musicians in the country. He was not ashamed to promote his own culture and tradition.”

“The whole world knows South Africa, it knows KwaZulu-Natal, it knows Ladysmith because of Joseph Shabalala and his group.”

“We want to call upon the youth and all up and coming musicians to not be ashamed of being identified as an African.”