Vusi Mahlasela: Spreading African Spirit Through Song

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Wednesday May 30, 2012

from CNN

Vusi Mahlasela: ‘The Voice’ on spreading African spirit through song
By Jessica Ellis

He is lauded as one of Africa’s most unique voices, with a fanbase stretching across the world, but South African singing sensation Vusi Mahlasela remains faithful to his roots.

For more than 20 years, the legendary singer has been celebrated globally for his powerful vocals and universal messages of freedom and human kindness. He has toured the world extensively and collaborated with major music stars such as Sting, Paul Simon and Dave Matthews.

But despite all his success and international acclaim, Mahlasela still resides in Mamelodi, the small township northeast of Pretoria where he grew up and nurtured his passion and talent for music. He says it all started for him here.

“Quite a lot of inspirations and also some of the songs that I wrote, I penned them here in Mamelodi,” says Mahlasela, who is known in South Africa as “The Voice.” “I still have very strong connections with this place,” he adds. “I feel rooted and connected to this place, I love it.”

A humble star, Mahlaselaʼs roots are reflected in his songs and lyrics, many written during one of the toughest times in South Africaʼs history — the fight against apartheid.

Perhaps his most famous song, “When You Come Back,” has become an anthem in the country, celebrating the return of those who escaped apartheid and lived in exile.

Mahlasela says the song’s hopeful lyrics, written years before South Africaʼs democratic change, were also for those arrested, like former South African president Nelson Mandela — not surprisingly, Mahlasela was asked in 1994 to perform at Mandelaʼs inauguration.

Passionate about spreading the traditional African philosophy, Ubuntu, many of Mahlaselaʼs global tours throughout his career have been benefit concerts. He has also become an ambassador to the 46664 foundation — named after Mandelaʼs prison number and dedicated to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

“That spirit of collective good, it’s still in the principle of ubuntu,” he says. “Everyday kindness, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, so everything about us that makes us human.”

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