South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela dedicates his song, "Thula Mama," to all women -- and especially his grandmother.
Vusi Mahlasela - Musician, activist South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela was a crucial artistic voice during the fight against apartheid, and now in the new modern-day nation. Blending traditional African music with soul and blues, his music showcases powerful vocals and poetic lyrics. Full bio
I’d like to dedicate this one to all the women in South Africa --
those women who refused to dwindle in the midst of apartheid.
And, of course, I’m dedicating it also to my grandmother,
whom I think really played quite a lot of important roles,
especially for me when I was an activist, and being harassed by the police.
You will recall that in 1976, June 16, the students of South Africa boycotted
the language of Afrikaans as the medium of the oppressor,
as they were sort of like really told
that they must do everything in Afrikaans --
biology, mathematics -- and what about our languages?
And the students wanted to speak to the government,
and police answered with bullets.
So every year, June 16, we will commemorate
all those comrades or students who died.
And I was very young then. I think I was 11 years,
and I started asking questions,
and that’s when my political education started.
And I joined, later on, the youth organization
under the African National Congress.
So as part of organizing this and whatever,
this commemoration, the police will round us up
as they call us leaders.
And I used to run away from home,
when I know that maybe the police might be coming
around the ninth or 10th of June or so.
And my grandmother one time said,
"No, look, you’re not going to run away.
This is your place, you stay here."
And indeed, the police came -- because they’ll just arrest us
and put us in jail and release us whenever they feel like, after the 20th or so.
So it was on the 10th of June, and they came, and they surrounded the house,
and my grandmother switched off all the lights in the house,
and opened the kitchen door.
And she said to them, "Vusi's here, and you're not going to take him tonight.
I'm tired of you having to come here, harassing us,
while your children are sleeping peacefully in your homes.
He is here, and you're not going to take him.
I've got a bowl full of boiling water -- the first one who comes in here, gets it."
Vusi Mahlasela - Musician, activist South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela was a crucial artistic voice during the fight against apartheid, and now in the new modern-day nation. Blending traditional African music with soul and blues, his music showcases powerful vocals and poetic lyrics.
Why you should listen
Vusi Mahlasela has dedicated his life to using music and words to inspire change. As a young boy in South Africa, he was routinely watched by the police because of his anti-apartheid poetry and his open support of student protest. During the final fight against apartheid, his songs of protest and solidarity became anthems -- stirring the South African people to create their new nation.
His lyrics touch on themes of love, family, hope and pride. Working with his own band and an international crew of genre-bending musicians, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and fellow South African Dave Matthews, Mahlasela crafts a rich, propulsive sound that helps his words reach directly into the heart.
His latest album is Guiding Star(2007), of which Dirty Linen magazine says:
"Contributions by Dave Matthews, Australian didjeridu player Xavier Rudd, Welsh singer/songwriter Jem, and slide guitarist Derek Trucks transforms Guiding Star into an Earth-spanning celebration, but they only enhance Mahlasela's Garfunkel-meets-Marley vocals, harp-like guitar fingerpicking, and mastery of his homeland's diverse musical traditions."