The news was confirmed on Tuesday morning by the group’s manager, Xolani Majozi.
Majozi said Shabalala was with his wife, Thokozile Shabalala, during his last moments.
“Yes, it’s true. Mr Shabalala passed on this morning. The group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) is on tour in the US, but they have been informed and are devastated because the group is family,” he told TshisaLIVE.
Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala— Ladysmith Black Mambazo (@therealmambazo) February 11, 2020
Our Founder, our Teacher and most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace. We celebrate and honor your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever. pic.twitter.com/2eDNFDUAGf
According to various reports, Shabalala died in an unnamed Pretoria hospital after being ill for quite some time.
Born on August 28, 1941 in Ladysmith, Shabalala was first thrust into the limelight when he was spotted by well-known group the Durban Choir, after he delighted audiences with his smooth guitar playing and soprano voice.
He founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the early 1960s, which was known for his unique Isicathamiya sound that was celebrated worldwide.
The group’s international break came in 1986 when Paul Simon travelled to South Africa to collaborate with South African artists for his Graceland album.
Simon collaborated with Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo and co-composed the classic hit Homeless.
The group have been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards, winning five, most recently for best world music album in 2017.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with top artists from around the world, including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris, Melissa Etheridge and appeared in the Michael Jackson film Moonwalker.
In 2014, Shabalala retired and passed the leadership torch to his sons, Thulani, Sibongiseni and Thamsanqa Shabalala, who have been part of the group since 1993.
Tributes have poured in for the late legend.
The group posted on social media: “Our Founder, our Teacher and, most importantly, our Father left us today for eternal peace.
“We celebrate and honour your kind heart and your extraordinary life. Through your music and the millions who you came in contact with, you shall live forever.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa called him a “veteran choral maestro”.
Sipho Hotstix Mabuse tweeted: “My friend... a giant humble man, Joseph Shabalala, passed away this morning. My sincere condolences to his family and friends #RIPJosephShabalala.”