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Vusi Mahlasela Sings for Hiland

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Monday October 15, 2018

From Alaska Public Media

Vusi Mahlasela, ‘The Voice,’ sings for Hiland
By: Kirsten Swann

Vusi Mahlasela has serenaded listeners around the world. Known as ‘The Voice,’ he’s performed at the World Cup and Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, and shared stages with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon and Josh Groban. Hiland Mountain Correctional Center isn’t his typical venue. That doesn’t matter, Mahlasela said. ‘Wherever that spirit sends me, it is for a purpose,’ he said, standing in the gym at the Eagle River prison Oct. 11.

From a portable stage set up in the middle of the gym floor, he performed for an audience dressed in matching yellow pants and shirts. He sang songs about his home in the Mamelodi Township, sometimes pausing to speak about the history of the music or offer words of advice. ‘If you don’t forgive, you become like your own prisoner. You become like a bitter leaf that can just be squashed or stripped away any time – so forgiveness is very important, and we should all wear it like a crown,’ Mahlasela told the crowd, who whooped and applauded in response.

Sitting in the front frow, Kendria Huskey said the music gave her goosebumps. When Mahlasela sang, she said, she felt like he was delivering a deeper message. ‘That was a testimony to me,’ Huskey said. ‘I’m African American and American Indian, so I was able to get my heritage, my culture, right here, given to me in place that you would never imagine.’ After Mahlasela performed, audience members had the chance to ask questions about his music, his work with Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign, his travels and his trip to Alaska. Listening to him was a blessing, Huskey said.

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