Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Joseph Shabalala (1941–2020)

Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has died at the age of seventy-eight. The New York Times has an obituary.

Here’s a song written by Joseph Shabalala, performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “Hamba Dompasi (No More Passbook).” The Zulu lyrics may be found in the liner notes for the album Journey of Dreams (1988), along with a summary and sample lines in English: “This song hails the abolishment of the abhorrent pass laws in South Africa while at the same time detailing the beauty of the land.”

The requirement that black people in white areas carry a passbook ended in 1986. I remember playing this song and teaching the play Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona) when apartheid was still the order of things in South Africa.

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