Renowned for the simmering, soulful spirit of his music and its prominent role in the anti-apartheid movement, Vusi Mahlasela is an icon simply known as "The Voice" in his native South Africa. That supple, peppery voice slips across octaves with a grace that belies its passion and power, incorporating tenderness and strength. Drawing on traditional South African stuff like mbaqanga and township jazz, Mahlasela fuses it with bits of international pop, gospel, and western folk. His latest, Guiding Star (ATO), features an international cast of guests, including guitarist Derek Trucks, Dave Mathews, a gospel choir, and fellow South Africans Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soul Brothers' keyboardist "Black Moses" Ngwenya. It includes an elegant, loving elegy for Mahlasela's late mother, tributes to fallen comrades in the struggle for equal rights, celebratory dance music, and an incendiary, reggae-fueled call for justice. Mahlasela rolls the past and present together into a compelling message for the future carried on cunning rhythms and the voice of a nation.
Sun., April 27, 7:30 p.m., 2008