With his iconic voice and lyrics of hope in an apartheid-marred South Africa, Vusi Mahlasela collaborated with the likes of Gov’t Mule, Dave Mathews Band and Paul Simon and brought his message to the world. His solo career has even included the honor of performing for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.

The Center for World Performance Studies Presents Vusi Mahlasela

Today at 7:30 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Free


Tonight, the man who has garnered the moniker “The Voice of South Africa” brings his soul and culture to the blustery Midwestern winter. He will be featured in a Center for World Performance Studies “Signature Event” at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

“This show is going to bring focus to Ubuntu,” Mahlasela said. “Ubuntu is humanity; it’s exploring what it means for us as a people living today. It encompasses a lot of things in society and binds those societies together.”

Bringing the philosophy of Ubuntu from South Africa to Ann Arbor, Mahlasela has envisioned a concert experience of unprecedented intimacy.

“People really want to hear something … that will make them think,” Mahlasela said. “As an artist, I encourage them to collect these thoughts, because they come from many people from many places. It’s a way to share and a way to grow in culture, in humanity.”

In this way, Mahlasela explained that his concert is like a conversation, during which he and the crowd exchange emotional energy and respond to each other.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to go somewhere where people are only interested in going out on a Friday evening to some club,” Mahlasela said. “Then it is hard to get energy back and no one becomes closer. But in those concerts where the subject matter reaches the audience, we are united by the music.”

In the show, Mahlasela hopes to blend his traditional folk with the more progressive genres developing in South Africa. Even still, his message is the same.

“My music is often about forgiveness and love, and you cannot have one without the other,” Mahlasela said. “It’s about the painful experiences we went through in South Africa, and from there up to where we are now.”

Mahlasela said his music is always in flux because it’s so interwoven with the fabric of South African culture. Those who attend the performance will have a night with a musician who embodies the quintessential folk tradition of Africa and the new Africa: one cognizant of its past, but looking to the future.

“It’s great to have people share in my memories and my music, but it is tremendous for me too,” Mahlasela said. “It’s really all about ‘we:’ We need to listen to each other, we need to share with each other, we need to honor each other.”

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