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Two of South Africa’s poets of freedom and renowned musical icons come together to honor 20 years since the start of democracy in South Africa, and the official end of the apartheid regime. In a collaborative performance with members of each star’s band, HUGH MASEKELA and VUSI MAHLASELA will celebrate the struggle and victory in 20 Years of Freedom, playing some of the most famous protest music and many of their own hits too. Both artists have been like-minded musical comrades at home in South Africa for years and shared the stage on several occasions, however this season marks the first time the two artists have toured together. The collaboration began in earnest in October 2014, when they opened Carnegie Hall’s South Africa Festival entitled “Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa” and welcomed special guests Dave Matthews and Somi to join the stage with them for several numbers. Masekela and Mahlasela retraced an outline of the history of the resistance to apartheid through some of the most memorable songs of the period, including Masekela’s “Bring Back Nelson Mandela” and “Stimela,” Mahlasela’s “When You Come Back,” and Johnny Klegg’s “Asimbonanga.” Perhaps the most emotional song of the evening was "Weeping" containing the melody from “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (the South African national anthem at a time when South Africans could not sing their own anthem under apartheid). The songs on this tour symbolize kindness, respect, unity, and ultimately forgiveness.
Vusi Mahlasela is simply known as ‘The Voice’ in his home-country, 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 Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. Vusi has shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, and Taj Mahal, among many others. 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 released seven studio albums to date; his latest release is Sing to the People (ATO Records), a celebratory live recording looking back on 20 years since his first album.
Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer, and defiant political voice who remains deeply connected at home, while his international career sparkles. In 1968, his instrumental single “Grazin’ in the Grass” went to Number One on the American pop charts and was a worldwide smash, elevating Hugh onto the international stage. His subsequent solo career has spanned five decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and the late Miriam Makeba. In 1990 Hugh returned home, following the legalization of the African National Congress and the release of Nelson Mandela – an event anticipated in Hugh’s anti-apartheid anthem “Bring Home Nelson Mandela” (1986), which had been a rallying cry around the world.