Vusi Mahlasela: Music for the People

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TED.com describes Vusi Mahlasela as one who has dedicated his life to using music and words to inspire change. As a young boy in South Africa, he was routinely watched by the police because of his anti-apartheid poetry and his open support of student protest. During the final fight against apartheid, his songs of protest and solidarity became anthems — stirring the South African people to create their new nation.

His lyrics touch on themes of love, family, hope and pride. Working with his own band and an international crew of genre-bending musicians, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and fellow South African Dave Matthews, Mahlasela crafts a rich, propulsive sound that helps his words reach directly into the heart.

 

BIOGRAPHY @ vusimahlasela.com 

Vusi Sydney Mahlasela Ka Zwane

Vusi Mahlasela is simply known as ‘The Voice’ in his home country, South Africa, celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, optimistic lyrics. His new album Say Africa is full of songs of freedom, of revolution, of love and of life.  Raised in the Mamelodi Township, where he still resides, Vusi became a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at an early age teaching himself how to play guitar and later joining the Congress of South African Writers. After his popular debut on BMG Africa, When You Come Back, Vusi was asked to perform at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and continues to spread Mandela’s message as an official ambassador to Mandela’s HIV/AIDS initiative, 46664.

After worldwide touring and international acclaim, Americans first caught a glimpse of Vusi in the lauded documentary film Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, and the accompanying soundtrack. After the release of the film, long-time admirer and fellow South African, Dave Matthews, signed Vusi to his own ATO Records label and released The Voice (2003)¸ a collection of the best songs from Vusi’s catalog. In 2007, ATO released Guiding Star, his first full-length release in the States. ATO Records released the highly anticipated follow-up record to Guiding Star on January 18, 2011. The new album, Say Africa, produced by Taj Mahal and recorded at Dave Matthews Band’s studio in Charlottesville, VA, captures Vusi’s hope for the future of Africa: ‘Let all those who share in Mandela’s greatest wish—to one day see an Africa that is at peace with herself—SAY AFRICA.’

After recording the album in the States in the spring of 2010, Vusi returned to his home in South Africa and was honored to help ring in the World Cup at FIFA’s Kick Off Concert at Orlando Stadium. The concert was broadcast internationally to an estimated one billion viewers. Following his performance, Vusi proudly introduced fellow South African, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on stage. Vusi’s anthemic song ‘When You Come Back’ was ITV’s official theme song for the World Cup in the UK. Other recent highlights include performing at Mandela Day to honor Mandela’s birthday, touring with Bela Fleck behind the release of his Grammy-winning album ‘Throw Down Your Heart,’ which features a live track from Vusi and Bela, two appearances at the TED conference and performing with international icons such as Paul Simon and Dave Matthews Band.  Vusi has also recently toured with both Ray LaMontagne and Amos Lee in the States and partnered with Angelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela in tribute to the late South African singer Miriam Makeba.

In the midst of a busy international touring schedule, Vusi remains dedicated to his social activism and partnerships with non-profits, including his own Vusi Mahlasela Music Development Foundation, committed to the promotion of and preservation of African music. Other organizations that Vusi actively supports are OXFAM, The Acumen Fund, The African Leadership Academy and the ONE campaign.

Over a musically and socially consequential career, South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela has successfully followed his muse and continued to give back to his country. As he puts it, he knows that ‘musicians have to be like watchdogs, just by seeing and speaking out, directly to the youth as well, because we need some kind of Cultural Revolution to remove ignorance.”

Courtesy of TED.com and vusimahlasela.com

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