Vusi Mahlasela


Vusi Mahlasela is a celebrated singer and guitarist, affectionately known as ‘The Voice’. Born in 1965he grew up in the Mamelodi township, outside Pretoria, where he still lives. Vusi built his first guitar from fishing line and an oil can and taught himself how to play. In 1976, Vusi’s political education began when he witnessed the massacre of black South Africans in the Soweto Uprising. Vusi responded through his music, inspiring other musicians and listeners around him. He joined a poetry group, The Ancestors of Africa, and the Congress of South African Writers, a group including Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer who paid for Vusi’s first guitar lessons.  For the “crime” of writing songs of freedom and human dignity, Vusi was repeatedly harassed by police and even held in solitary confinement. 

In 1986, aged 21, he recorded with the group Mahube. In the early 90s Vusi was signed to Shifty and recorded his debut solo album. He soon became a household name with the album’s title track 'When You Come Back', a song dedicated to comrades who fought against apartheid in exile and showcasing Vusi’s incredible vocal range. In 1994, Vusi was proud and very humbled to perform this song at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration. That year he released his second album, 'Wisdom of Forgiveness'. Since then Vusi has traveled the globe sharing his songs of truth and hope. South African-born star Dave Matthews signed Vusi to his label, ATO Records, and in 2003 released 'The Voice'. 'Guiding Star' (2007) and 2011’s 'Say Africa', produced by Taj Mahal, soon followed.

Perhaps his biggest gig was in 2010 when he helped ring in the World Cup in South Africa, at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Vusi has received many awards, including an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University, the National Order of Ikhamanga and a SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. To celebrate he put on a show at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg, released as the live album 'Sing to the People' in 2013.


ZAJohannesburg, South Africa


Kevin Stuart
Profile added by DJ Okapi on 26 May 2014