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Updated On: Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Vusi Mahlasela on his life in music and activism | The Stream

2018-10-29 | Vusi Mahlasela on his life in music and activism | The Stream

Vusi Mahlasela is one of South Africa’s most respected and gifted musicians, poets and activists. Over the course of a 40-year career he has chronicled his personal experiences and those of his compatriots, traversing the abuses of the apartheid era and the subsequent struggle to tackle inequality after policies of racial discrimination ended in the early 1990s.

The massacre of at least 176 black South Africans in the 1976 Soweto Uprising sparked Mahlasela’s political awakening, prompting him to write songs of justice, revolution and freedom. He paid a heavy personal price for this commitment to equality, with the apartheid-era police placing him in solitary confinement on several occasions. He released his first album 'When You Come Back' in 1992, after the fall of the apartheid regime.

Mahlasela has since released six other studio albums but he thrives most in a live setting, where his reputation as ‘The Voice’ finds its fullest expression. His performance was a highlight at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, as well as Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations.

He is now embarking on a tour called 'Township', inspired by his his early musical experiences in his grandmother’s bar in the Mamelodi township just outside Pretoria, where he still lives. It’s a love letter to the mbaqanga, kwela and marabi sounds of the townships.

Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer famosuly said “Vusi Mahlasela sings as a bird does - in total response to being alive”. Join The Stream to hear him in full flight.

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