Music Calendar

Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela, simply known as ‘The Voice’ in his home country, South Africa, is celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, optimistic lyrics. His songs of hope connect Apartheid-scarred South Africa with its promise for a better future. 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 debut on BMG Africa, When You Come Back, Vusi was asked to perform at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and continues to spread Mandela’s message as an official ambassador to Mandela’s HIV/AIDS initiative, 46664.

Twenty years ago, Vusi recorded his first album, When You Come Back. The title track instantly became an anthem in South Africa as his country fought hard to end, and then heal, from the brutal Apartheid regime that had divided the country since 1948. In celebration of this milestone, Vusi will release Sing to the People – a live album recorded at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg.

Sing to the People contains joyful performances of songs recorded throughout the first twenty years of Vusi’s career as well as the visceral sounds of an audience responding to every familiar note. In the a capella intro to the song “When You Come Back,” Vusi’s signature and unmistakable bird-like voice soars “Sing Loud and SING TO THE PEOPLE.” Although written nearly 25 years ago, the meaning of the song has evolved but the prevailing theme remains the same. It’s a call for humanity, says The Voice. “I ask that we ‘give something to the world and not just take from it.’” The message is universal and remains relevant today.


• “When You Come Back” live in Johannesburg

• Vusi showcases his joyful vocals here

What Other People Have Been Saying...

“He was a voice during the revolution, a voice of hope, like a Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan of South Africa, and he still is.” -Dave Matthews

“Mahlasela is a delightful guitarist, but a masterful singer, who ranges from cooing to growling to soul shouts and everything in between, always with vivid expression and amazing control.” -Afropop Worldwide

“…intensity that captures the attention and embraces the heart.” – Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

“Vusi maintains a powerful voice in his country’s embrace of freedom and justice” –Billboard

“…if Mahlasela embodies his country’s spirit, there is plenty of cause for hope.” -London Times

“Garfunkel-meets-Marley vocals, harp-like guitar fingerpicking, and mastery of his homeland’s diverse musical traditions.” – Dirty Linen

“a tremendous talent … An amazing spirit” – Josh Groban

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Sing To The People