February 1, 2010                                                       

AMHERST, Mass.—South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela will perform at Buckley Recital Hall in Amherst College’s Arms Music Center at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12.  While the event is free, those who wish to attend must reserve tickets in advance by visiting Room 114 in Amherst’s KeefeCampusCenter between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or calling 413-542-5773. The performance is sponsored by the college’s Student Activities Office and Program Board.

Mahlasela—an accomplished guitarist, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader and performer—creates a sound that is a hybrid of folk, world, blues and soul, “one that connects South Africa’s Apartheid-scarred past with its promise for a better future,” he says. Born Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane in 1965 in Lady Selborne, South Africa, he was raised in MamelodiTownship, a vibrant artist community where he still resides, and gravitated toward poetry and songwriting as a teen, eventually joining youth organizations protesting South Africa’s separatist, white government. In 1988, he joined the Congress of South African Writers, developing a new level of confidence as a poet and a writer but attracting the negative attention of the authorities. After the end of Apartheid, he performed at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and is now an ambassador to Mandela’s 46664 Foundation, a campaign to help raise global awareness of HIV and AIDS. Mahlasela was featured in the acclaimed independent film Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, honoring the 10th anniversary of the end of Apartheid, and, thanks to his work and music, enjoys a growing worldwide following.

Among Mahlasela’s ardent supporters and collaborators is Dave Matthews, a native of South Africa, who has long aimed to make Mahlasela’s music known in the United States. “Vusi has a sort of profound beauty about him. He has a light on,” Matthews has said. “And that’s something he would share with Bob Marley, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye or Miles Davis.” The New York Times has been likewise glowing about his art, saying, “Mahlasela has a voice that leaps out of the music with sleek renditions of South African rhythms and more internationalist pop along the lines of Sting or Dave Matthews.”

A limited number of tickets are available, so call Amherst’s KeefeCampusCenter at 413-542-5773 for a reservation.