Vusi Mahlasela - Naledi Ya Tsela (Guiding Star)

2007-03-22 17:03
 
Podcast: We interview Vusi - Listen now

Apart from its obvious political appeal, his early albums were full of inspiring melodies and his incredible voice earned him his nickname: "The Voice" - though some think he should be called "the guitar" instead.

On Naledi Ya Tsela (In America, the title is translated from the Sotho to "Guiding Star") he's brought many famous strands of South African music together, and many stars together too. The full page of credits includes Sibusiso Victor Masondo and Ian Herman in the basic band with guests and session guys like Robin Auld, Paul Hanmer, Jem, Chris Letcher, Dave Matthews, Steve Newman, Mabi Thobejane, and language advisors including Rian Malan. The result is an elegant, moral, international album laced with protest.

Unfortunately, playing to too many people at once compromises impact. The English lyrics don't sound as comfortable - they sound translated and it sounds almost like you'd expect a foreigner to think our music sounds. Of course there are exceptions. "Everytime" works well if you're willing to let go of the past a little.

Instead of making the album the best thing he's ever done (as, arguably, Paul Simon's Graceland was to his career) it feels like Mahlasela's voice is lost among all the others here. While his earlier work was high-impact stuff that could move you to tears in places, this is merely very nice - it actually feels like he's singing cover versions.

If you're a fan, and you already have his catalogue, buy it. It's nicely put together. And it should surely win an award for album cover design. And who knows, this may be the album that reaches the huge international market that none of the others has before.

- Jean Barker

WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID

"...retains all the African warmth and simplicity that has endeared him to audiences across the globe." - Richard Holmes on iAfrica.com
Breaking down boundaries is Vusi Mahlasela's "thing", and he does it with dignity and the occasional critical touch. His 1994 album Wisdom of Forgiveness was a success internationally as well as at home, exemplifying the Ubuntu spirit for many around the world.

What to read next: Kalahari

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