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Simon Criticizes Bail for Suspect in Tshabalala Shooting

December 12, 1991

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police arrested a white security guard Thursday in connection with the shooting death of Headman Tshabalala, a Grammy-winning singer who gained fame on Paul Simon’s ″Graceland″ album.

Sean Nicholas, 26, was released on bail of $380 soon after being arrested, prompting criticism from Simon and assertions of racism from Tshabalala’s brother.

Tshabalala, one of four brothers in the 10-member Ladysmith Black Mambazo group that performed intricate vocal harmonies on ″Graceland,″ was killed Tuesday night in Natal, police said. The black singer was 44.

Nicholas was not asked to enter a plea and was told to report to police once a week. The case was postponed until Feb. 20.

The independent South African Press Association reported Thursday that Nicholas had tried to make a citizen’s arrest because he believed Tshabalala’s car was being driven dangerously. A shot fired in an ensuing scuffle killed Tshabalala, the agency said.

Police declined to comment on the report.

In a statement released by his publicist in New York, Simon criticized the South African authorities for ″lack of respect for human life.″

″An investigation needs to begin right now,″ Simon said. ″At the very least, they should either put this suspect back in jail or dramatically raise his bail.″

Tshabalala’s brother, Joseph, said the singer was the victim of racism.

″My brother was killed by racism,″ Joseph Tshabalala said, according to the statement from Simon’s publicist. ″He was unarmed and was shot by a white man. It is unbelievable that such a thing can happen. We cannot and will not accept this.″

Simon, who was on tour in Mexico City, dedicated his concert Wednesday night to Tshabalala, playing ″The Boy in the Bubble″ from ″Graceland″ in his memory.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was formed 30 years ago by Headman and Joseph Tshabalala. Its songs, which are usually performed in Zulu, are often about day-to-day life in black South Africa. The group’s records sold widely under South African labels before they met Simon in the 1980s.

In 1986, the group recorded background vocals on Simon’s ″Graceland,″ which became a best-seller and won a Grammy. On the album, the brothers’ last name was spelled ″Shabalala,″ but the family’s preferred spelling is ″Tshabalala.″

Ladysmith Black Mambazo won its own Grammy, for best traditional folk album, for ″Shaka Zulu″ in 1987. The group has toured the United States and Europe.

Simon is scheduled to perform in South Africa beginning Jan. 10, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the bill. Simon’s publicist said Joseph Tshabalala told Simon the group would perform as scheduled.

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