Joseph Bhekizizwe Shabalala was born on 28 August in 1941 and town of Ladysmith (eMnambithi district) in the Kwazulu-natal region was a member of the internationally renowned South African vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His parents, Jonathan Mluwane Shabalala and Nomandla Elina Shabalala.  He was well known for his unique bass vocals.

Joseph Shabalala, who claimed that he heard the vocal harmonies the group became famous for in a dream, formed Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960. He recruited his brothers, Headman and Joseph, and his cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko.

The group received airplay on Radio Zulu, which led to a recording contract with Gallo Records in 1970. Initially their repertoire consisted of traditional folk songs, but when Joseph converted to Christianity in the mid-1970's the group shifted their focus to gospel music. The group achieved international fame when they collaborated with Paul Simon on his Graceland album in 1986. After the passing of Headman, Joseph Shabalala recruited his three sons to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

In 1958, Joseph discovered an isicathamiya group, The Highlanders, led by his hero Galiyane Hlatshwayo. Hlatshwayo was the man who encouraged Joseph to use his voice powerfully. Joseph formed his own group the following year 1959, Ezimnyama ("The Black Ones"). A series of dreams Joseph had in his sleep in December 1960 was a major turning point in the formation of the group; when he saw how well his group did in the once-weekly isicathamiya competitions.

On the night of 10 December 1991, Joseph's brother and fellow member Headman Shabalala was killed by an off-duty white security guard near the town of Ladysmith. The death of Shabalala was thought to be a racial murder. Joseph, helped by his beliefs, persevered, and the group continued; the members now included Joseph's brother Jockey, close relatives Albert and Abednego Mazibuko, Russel Mthembu and Jabulani Dubazana and Joseph's sons Sibongiseni, Thamsanqa, Thulani and Msizi. 

Shabalala announced, in January 2008, that his youngest son Thamsanqa would take over as leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo when the time comes for him to retire from international touring On 11 February 2020, Shabalala died in Pretoria at the age of 78.

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