Tag Archives: Vusi Mahlasela

Artist Profiles: Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane was born in 1965 in Lady Selbourne, near Pretoria, and grew up in Mamelodi township, where he still resides. Vusi never knew his father, lost his mother at a young age, and was raised by his maternal grandmother. Growing up in Mamelodi, a cradle of creativity that has produced a number of noted poets, writers, artists & musicians, the young Vusi began to teach himself to play on a homemade guitar, a remarkable instrument made of tin cans and fishing line.

Vusi can’t remember a time when he wasn’t singing. “I’m sure I learned to sing before I could talk,” and was a seasoned performer by the age of seventeen. He soon discovered that he had a flair for composition and began to write his own music and lyrics.

From the outset, Vusi’s songs addressed themes of political and social significance, and so he found himself in demand at political rallies and cultural events. His message of peace also drew him into close contact with poetry groups, especially the Ancestors of Africa, a rousing group of poets, musicians and actors, formed in 1981. He recalls, “We were picked up and harassed in all types of situations, going to church every Sunday and being forced to sign a piece of paper at the police station first. If I was going out of town for a wedding, it had to be reported to the police first. They kept on harassing me with the things I was doing. But I stuck to it.”

After joining the Congress of South African Writers in 1988, Vusi developed a new level of confidence as a poet and a writer. He struck up a creative friendship with South African poet Lesego Rampolokeng at the same time he was falling under the spell of artists like Miriam Makeba and Phillip Tabane. He was also exposed to the work of Victor Jara, whom Vusi acknowledges as a central influence on his own music and lyrics.

His first record, When You Come Back was recorded and released by Shifty/BMG in 1991 and produced by Lloyd Ross. The album is widely acknowledged as a South African classic. Then, in 1994, Vusi was asked to perform arguably the most important gig of his life: the inauguration of South Africa’s new president, Nelson Mandela. That same year, with South Africa undergoing massive transition, Vusi released his second album, Wisdom of Forgiveness. The album saw Vusi receive a finalist nomination for Best Male Vocalist at the FNB SAMA (South African Music Award).

Vusi released several albums since ‘Wisdom’, including the Gold-certified and double SAMA winning Silang Mabele (1997), Miyela Afrika in 2000, and Jungle Of Questions (2002), which Vusi produced and recorded alongside his Proud People’s Band backing outfit. Vusi is featured in Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, the celebrated film about the importance of music and song in South Africa?s anti-apartheid struggle.

An accomplished guitarist, percussionist, composer, arranger, band leader and performer, Vusi now enjoys an ever-growing following that spans worldwide. Among his most ardent supporters is Dave Matthews, who is a native of South Africa and has long aimed to make Vusi’s music known in the U.S. In fact, when Matthews founded ATO Records several years ago, one of his foremost goals was to sign Vusi to the label. In 2000, he invited Vusi to contribute guest vocals on the title track of the Dave Matthews Band?s multi-platinum album Everyday.

In 2002, ATO was approached by the producers of Amandla! and enthusiastically secured rights to release the soundtrack. Matthews further realized his goal, signing Vusi to ATO.


When You Come Back (BMG, 1993)
Wisdom Of Forgiveness (BMG, 1994)
Silang Mabele (BMG Records Africa, 1997)
Jungle Of Questions (BMG Africa, 2002
The Voice (ATO Records, 2003)
Guiding Star (ATO Records, 2006)
The South African Meeting Of Viramundo (Dreampixies, 2010)
Say Africa (ATO Records, 2011)
Sing To The People (ATO Records, 2013)


World Music Stars Vusi Mahlasela and Habib Koité Announce USA Tour

Habib Koité and Vusi Mahlasela
Habib Koité and Vusi Mahlasela

The Acoustic Africa Tour returns to the United States of America with two of the finest live world music acts from Africa, Malian musician Habib Koite and South African vocalist Vusi Mahlasela. The tour begins Saturday, March 19, 2016 in San Francisco, California and will conclude on Sunday, April 17 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Acoustic Africa provides music fans a rare opportunity to experience their favorite African artists in intimate settings.

Vusi Mahlasela is known as ‘The Voice’ in South Africa, celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, positive lyrics. 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 album debut on BMG Africa, When You Come Back, Vusi was asked to perform at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.

Vusi has shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, and Taj Mahal, among many others. Possibly his biggest concert was in 2010 when he helped ring in the World Cup in South Africa, at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Vusi has released seven studio albums to-date: When You Come Back (1992), Wisdom of Forgiveness (1994), Silang Mabele (1997), Miyela Afrika (2000), Jungle of Questions (2000), Naledi Ya Tsela – Guiding Star (2007) and Say Africa (2010). His latest release is Sing to the People (ATO Records), a celebratory live recording looking back on twenty years since his first album.

A modern singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitarist with extraordinary appeal, Habib Koité is one of the leading artist from West Africa. Habib Koité and his band Bamada became one of the first African artists to appear on Late Night with David Letterman, a popular TV comedy and variety show in the United States.
To date Habib Koité has sold over 250,000 albums, and he continues to build his profile through a very active calendar of tour dates. His discography includes Soo, Muso Ko, Afriki, Brothers in Bamako, Baro, Ma Ya and Foly Live Around the World.

Tour Dates:

Saturday, March 19 at Herbst Theater – San Francisco, CA
Sunday, March 20 at The Green Music Center – Rohnert Park, CA
Tuesday, March 22 at Cargo Concert Hall – Reno, NV
Thursday, March 24 at Fox Tuscon Theater – Tucson, AZ
Friday, March 25 at MIM Music Theater – Phoenix, AZ
Saturday, March 26 at Luckman Fine Arts Complex – Los Angeles, CA
Monday, March 28 at Kuumbwa Jazz Center – Santa Cruz, CA
Tuesday, March 29 at John Van Duzer Theatre – Arcata, CA
Thursday, March 31 at Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR
Friday, April 01 at The Triple Door – Seattle, WA
Saturday, April 02 at The Triple Door – Seattle, WA
Tuesday, April 05 at Cedar Cultural Center – Minneapolis, MN
Wednesday April 06 at Old Town School Of Folk Music – Chicago, IL
Friday, April 08 at McCain Auditorium – Manhattan, KS
Sunday, April 10 at Academy of Music – Northampton, MA
Wednesday, April 13 at The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium – New York, NY
Thursday, April 14 at Lisner Audtiorium (GW University) – Washington, DC
Friday, April 15 at Weis Center (Bucknell) – Lewisburg, PA
Saturday April 16 at Stewart Theater (NC State) – Raleigh, NC
Sunday, April 17 at Somerville Theater – Somerville, MA


Savannah Music Festival 2009 Will Present the Most Artistically Diverse Season in the History of the Organization


Savannah (Georgia), USA – The Savannah Music Festival (SMF) announces its most artistically diverse lineup to date for the upcoming 2009 festival, including several commissioned works and a wealth of original productions showcasing a wide variety of American and international musical traditions.

Committed to enhancing the cultural landscape of Savannah, SMF programs combine elegance and soul in a way that mirrors the history and culture of the remarkable city. The unique musical arts event is one of the highlights of springtime on the southeastern U.S. coast and a distinctive destination for cultural travelers.

The 2009 festival takes place between March 19 and April 5 in historic downtown Savannah and features more than 100 musical performances in intimate settings.

Original Productions & Other Highlights

• Long Time Travelin’, a celebration of American folksong traditions: Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl with Patrick Sauber, old-time balladeer Tim Eriksen, National Heritage Fellow Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Tatnall River Shapenote Singers, and host Jim Lauderdale, an acclaimed Nashville singer-songwriter

• Jazz Now and Forever, a series of jazz greats including Dianne Reeves, Chick Corea & John McLaughlin’s Five Peace Band featuring Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett and Brian Blade, and The Clayton Brothers

• The Gershwin Songbook, jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and classical pianist Sebastian Knauer performing the greatest compositions of this masterful American composer

• The Blues was Born Here, an authentic southern blues review showcasing Piedmont blues masters Cephas & Wiggins on a one-time only bill with Georgia’s own Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

• Resplendent Recitals, a series highlighting the world’s finest recitalists including tenor Ian Bostridge, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, and pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Marc-Andre Hamelin and Sebastian Knauer

• Big World of Music, leading international artists such as fado star Mariza, Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen, Bela Fleck’s Africa Project featuring virtuosos Toumani Diabate, Vusi Mahlasela, and D’Gary, and Indian maestros Zakir Hussain & Shiv Kumar Sharma.

• The 16th annual American Traditions Competition, some of the nation’s most talented aspiring vocalists competing for more than $30,000 in prize monies

• The three-night Savannah Jazz Party featuring Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Howard Paul and Ken Peplowski; the Ellis Marsalis Quartet; and the 2009 Piano Showdown with solos and duos by pianists Eddie Palmieri, Henry Butler, Aaron Goldberg and Bob Seeley

• The Complete Brandenburg Concertos performed by the Academy of Ancient Music with Richard Egarr

• Organ Stops, a six-concert series featuring such internationally acclaimed organists as Janette Fishell

• Everybody Dance Now, a three-concert series of dance parties featuring Eddie Palmieri & La Perfecta II, Zydeco great Cedric Watson, and the rising young Cajun ensemble, Feufollet

• Georgia On My Mind, a four-concert series including Savannah’s own Bobby Lee Rodgers & Friends in a one-time only event, as well as the Marcus Printup Quartet, Caroline Herring, and Sacred Harp Singing with Tim Eriksen

• Swing Central, a three-day high school jazz band and competition capped off by Battle Royale, the closing night finale concert featuring a cutting contest with trumpeters, saxophonists, trombonists and rhythm sections. Featured performers: Marcus Roberts Trio, The Clayton Brothers, Wycliffe Gordon, Terrell Stafford, Scotty Barnhart and others

• Roots & Twang, a varied series featuring Neko Case with Crooked Fingers, Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile, The Infamous Stringdusters and The Lovell Sisters, and The Blues was Born Here

• Tap master Savion Glover, combining two different projects on a Savannah stage

Tickets go on sale at 9 am EST on November 13 and are available online at www.savannahmusicfestival.org or by phone at 912-525-5050.