In his homeland of South Africa, Vusi Mahlasela is fondly referred to as ‘The Voice’. He is celebrated not only for his distinct, potent voice but also for his poetic and optimistic lyrics. His evocative songs of hope bridge a South Africa scarred by Apartheid with its bright promise of a better future. Born and raised in the Mamelodi Township, where he continues to reside, Vusi started his journey as a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at a very young age.
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Career Inception and Growth
After the success of his debut with BMG Africa, "When You Come Back," Vusi was invited to perform at the 1994 inauguration of Nelson Mandela. He has since toured the world, sharing the stage with global music giants like Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, Josh Groban, and many more. His musical journey took an upward turn in 2003 when fellow South African, Dave Matthews, signed him to ATO Records, leading to the release of his albums in North America.
International Recognition and Accolades
Over the past two decades, Vusi has graced the world with nine cherished albums. One of his most memorable performances was in 2010 when he rang in the World Cup in South Africa at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. His song, “When You Come Back,” became the theme for the South African World Cup coverage on ITV in the UK. Acknowledging his international and national acclaim, the SAMA Awards honored Vusi with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Commitment to Community and Social Causes
Vusi proudly served as an ambassador to Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign, which aimed to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa. He holds an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University and was recently awarded a second honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His cultural contributions were recognized by South African President Ramaphosa with a national “Ubuntu and Culture” award.
A National Treasure
Nobel Laureate and celebrated author, Nadine Gordimer, encapsulated the sentiments of many when she said, “Vusi sings as a bird does, in total response to being alive. He is a national treasure.” Vusi's music, often described as "African folk," has been a beacon of inspiration for many in the anti-apartheid movement. His musical themes often touch upon the struggle for freedom and the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Recent Works and Contributions
His album "The Voice", released under ATO Records, features the popular track "Weeping", recorded alongside Josh Groban and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In June 2007, Mahlasela spoke about apartheid and performed "Thula Mama" at the TED Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. His latest offering, "Say Africa," was produced by legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and was released in 2011 by ATO Records.
Vusi Mahlasela is not just a musician but symbolizes hope, change, and the transformative power of music to unite people and heal a nation. With every note he sings, he shares his passion, love, and vision for a united and peaceful South Africa.