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Biography of Vusi MAHLASELA

South Africa > Music : Vusi MAHLASELA

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Biography :

Vusi Mahlasela (b. in 1965), is one of the finest songwriters in South Africa,foremost songwriters, blending folk rhythms with elements of world pop, blues, and soul—all in support of what is widely and singularly known as “The Voice,” an instantly recognizable sound ranging from a velvety tenor to a plaintive soprano. Mahlasela first raised that voice publicly in protest of his country’s all-white government and system of Apartheid, culminating in a triumphant performance at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration in 1994.

In the 1980s, Vusi Mahlasela was a voice of the revolution in South Africa. His music gave expression to the political ideals of the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1990s, he became a musical megastar in his home country and started building an audience abroad. Now signed to the record label of native South African musician Dave Matthews, Mahlasela's music is telling South Africa's story on a global stage. 

Mahlasela was born in 1965 and raised by his grandmother in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria. A self-taught guitarist, he built his first guitars from cooking-oil cans, with fishing-wire for strings. Novelist Nadine Gordimer, who calls Mahlasela a "national treasure," took an interest in him at an early age and arranged guitar lessons. Soon Mahlasela was performing at political rallies across the country, singing about South Africans' struggles under the apartheid system.


In the '90s, with the release of Nelson Mandela and the first democratic elections in South Africa, Mahlasela landed recording deals that resulted in a series of albums, European and African tours, and major South African music awards. His music is deeply rooted in folk, African jazz and the a capella "mbube" music that Ladysmith Black Mambazo made famous. His musical messages mirrored the changes happening in his country: Mahlasela became a peacemaker and social commentator, using his music to foster national reconciliation. "If you are bitter you are like a dry leaf that you can just squash and you can get blown away by the wind. There is much more wisdom in forgiveness."


Last update : 10/30/2009

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