South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela was a crucial artistic voice during the fight against apartheid, and now in the new modern-day nation. Blending traditional African music with soul and blues, his music showcases powerful vocals and poetic lyrics.
Why you should listen
Vusi Mahlasela 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.
His latest album is Guiding Star (2007), of which Dirty Linen magazine says:
"Contributions by Dave Matthews, Australian didjeridu player Xavier Rudd, Welsh singer/songwriter Jem, and slide guitarist Derek Trucks transforms Guiding Star into an Earth-spanning celebration, but they only enhance Mahlasela's Garfunkel-meets-Marley vocals, harp-like guitar fingerpicking, and mastery of his homeland's diverse musical traditions."
What others say
“Despite the fact that his songs are frequently filled with political subtext and despite his personal familiarity with the horrors of apartheid, his performances are optimistic and soulful, delivered with an intensity that captures the attention and embraces the heart.” — Don Heckman, LA Times