Wednesday, February 15, 2006

MAMBAZOBIT: Jockey Shabalala

The death has been announced of Jockey Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Jockey joined the band - founded by his brother, Joseph, in the 1960s and was well known amongst black audiences in South Africa. The band came to international fame when Paul Simon ignored the UN ban on cultural links with the aparthied state to use them as backing singers on his Graceland album. The record - which pretty much ignored the suffering of South Africans in favour of songs about Simon's divorce - split political opinion but bagged Simon a Grammy; it also placed LBM in a strong position to tour internationally after their country became their country ceased to be an international pariah state.

Jockey toured internationally with the band up until 2005; although he continued to play with them domestically he wanted to spend more time with his family.

The band are currently on tour in the US; Joseph Shabalala said they would fulfill outstanding dates:

"We must continue to spread our culture and our message of peace, love and harmony," he said in the statement from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Jockey helped me and the rest of the group on this mission for almost 40 years. As we were performing tonight's encore song, Amazing Grace, I could hear his voice, once again, as part of our harmony. I'll always hear his voice, even as he is now with God."

Jockey is believed to have died from natural causes; he is survived by his wife and four children.

Obituary: Ben Shabalala