Nov. 12--Vusi Mahlasela once thought of becoming a physician or a priest.
Instead, the South African singer has enjoyed a fruitful and illustrious career in music.
And, as Mahlasela discovered, he could do just as much good on stage as he could from the pulpit or the doctor's chair.
"My mother told me, 'You are already there because you are teaching with your music and you are healing with your music," Mahlasela said. "I realized this is what was meant for me."
Mahlasela will do some teaching and healing when he joins Taj Mahal and Fredericks Brown during a stop on the trio's World Blues tour at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 16.
A folk singer who came of age during the 1960s and '70s, Mahlasela became an inspirational voice to millions of people struggling under the Apartheid regime. He sang songs of freedom, justice and human dignity -- a "crime" that landed him in jail on several occasions. But this only strengthened his resolve. He continued to write and perform, earning the nickname "The Voice."
As South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer once put it: "Vusi sings as a bird does, in total response to being alive."
At the fall of Apartheid, Mahlasela inked a major label deal, recorded his debut album and performed at Nelson Mandela's inauguration. His message of Ubuntu -- a term that roughly translates to "human kindness" -- resonated throughout the world.
Still, the ever-humble Mahlasela never thought of himself as a star.
"I'm more like a firefly, bringing the subject matter that's dear to all people," said Mahlasela, who has shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Warren Haynes and others. "It's about happiness, love, compassion, unity and reconciliation."
Mahlasela said that message is still relevant today, and he has continued to preach it at colleges, concert halls and open air festivals from Cape Town to New York City. On stage, he is famous for captivating audiences with his distinctive, gravelly vocals and bright, enchanting rhythms.
The singer's Fairfield concert will feature songs from his seven studio albums, including his latest, "Say Africa," an LP produced by Mahal and recorded at Dave Matthews' studio in Johannesburg. Mahlasela will join Mahal and Brown for a post-concert finale.
Given all his success and international acclaim, it's hard to imagine Mahlasela wielding a Bible or a stethoscope instead of a guitar. Still, teaching and healing have, and always will be, defining characteristics of his music and performance.
Said Mahlasela: "For me, what I'm doing, this is destiny."
Scott.email@example.com; Twitter: @scottgarg
Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, 1073 N. Benson Road. Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m. $45-$35. 203-254-4010, 877-ARTS-396, www.quickcenter.com.
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