Two Decades On, Vusi Mahlasela Still Sings 'To The People' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Two Decades On, Vusi Mahlasela Still Sings 'To The People'

Play associated audio

South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela came of age during the 1970s, an era dominated by the violent student uprising in Soweto. From the start, his musical expression has been about love and hope for his country. His songs play as anthems of South Africa's rise from apartheid to democracy and have helped earn him the nickname "The Voice."

Mahlasela's new album, Sing to the People, is a live recording of his 20th-anniversary show in Johannesburg. In this concert retrospective, he reflects on his career, as he performs the songs that made him a musical icon.

"Silang Mabele," for instance, translates as "crushing corn." A metaphor for fighting poverty, it reveals a lot about this globetrotting folk troubadour — his connection to the land, his lyrical musicality and his deep commitment to uplifting Africa.

Mahlasela's compilation is loaded with heartfelt, elegant passion, and the personal weight of his emotion can be overwhelming. But there are moments throughout the set when the singer and his band cut loose, as they do on "Tswang Tswang Tswang," a township romp laden with gospel overtones.

Near the end of his performance, Mahlasela sings the song that first put him on the map in South Africa: "When You Come Back." When it made its debut in 1990, it played as a fanciful dream — a vision of a time when exiles would return to help build the nation.

Today, that message resonates for much of the African continent. Quietly, behind grim headlines, some African economies are on the rise, and Mahlasela isn't alone in urging African exiles to think about coming home. The notion could hardly have a more appealing messenger.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Dec. 25

Merry Christmas from Art Beat! Two shows keep the holiday festivities going through the weekend.

NPR

A Punch Line In The U.S., Christmas Fruitcake Is Big In Calcutta

Seen as indestructible in the West, fruitcakes are indispensable in the bustling Hindu city. Bakers of all faiths have the ovens running round the clock to feed Calcutta's appetite for the cakes.
NPR

What To Expect In The 2016 Presidential Announcement Season

With Jeb Bush signaling he's likely to run for president in 2016, it's another sign that the presidential announcement season is underway. Here's a look at who has jumped in the race early and what to expect in the coming months.
NPR

2014 Hashtags: #BringBackOurGirls Made Nigerian Schoolgirls All Of 'Ours'

As part of a series on hashtag activism in 2014, Audie Cornish speaks with Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Open Society Foundation. Ezekwesili was one of the early promoters of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, about schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in April.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.