Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two Birds: Vusi Mahlasela and Louis Mhlanga

Louis Mhlanga and Vusi Mahlasela

To wrap up this mini series of African music I share a sweet slice of South African musical cake, Vusi Mahlasela and Louis Mhlanga Live at the Bassline.

Vusi Mahlasela is one of South Africa’s most revered guitarists and singers. His playing is light and melodic; his voice soars. Louis Mhlanga, another prominent guitarist came to South Africa from Zimbabwe. Self taught on the guitar he has played with the royals of Southern African music including Mariam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi and Hugh Masakela.

Growing up he admired the traditionally derived pop music of local luminaries such as Thomas Mapfumo. His first recording was not recognized for a whole decade until BMG released it in South Africa in the early ’90s. However, his 2001 international debut, Shamwari, established him as a rare guitarist able to span African traditional pop and jazz.
In April 2000, Louis produced Mahlasela's 4th album and featured on it. Before that, in 1999, a live duo recording with Mahlasela resulted in the album Vusi and Louis Live at the Bassline. He was involved with Thandi Klaassen's album Two of a kind, a project initiated by Dutch singer Stef Bos. Bos featured Louis on the album De Onderstroom, for which he co-wrote the music of the title song. Louis is on the another album called Place of Hope, which is collaborations with George Duke, James Ingram, Al Jarreau, Diane Reeves, among others. Louis is also on Fire in the Engine Room by Andy Narell, and following their South African tour, they released the album Live in S.A.
Louis has recorded some work under his own name — his solo album Mukai and Music Ye Africa with Jethro Shsha, both at Shed Studios in Harare. In 2001, he put together a new group, The Louis Mhlanga Band, featuring musicians with a strong jazz influence. They were invited by SAFM (one of South Africa's national radio stations) to perform at the Grahamstown Standard Bank National Arts Festival. Subsequently the group released the album Shamwari, Louis's debut release on the Sheer Sound label.
He has produced albums by Thomas Mapfumo, Nigerian King Sunny Adé, South African musician Vusi Mahalasela, and many other artists. A former director of musical theatre, Mhlanga also ran Zimbabwe's Ethnomusicology Trust, where he was in charge of developing national teaching programmes for traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean music. He also spent a year in the Netherlands. As the musician-in-residence at the Royal Dutch Conservatory of Music, Mhlanga taught African guitar courses and eventually recorded several albums with bassist Eric Van Der Westen, one of which also included Malian guitarist and singer Habib Koité. (Wikipedia)

This recording is an all acoustic set of brilliant guitar picking, fine singing and lots of positive lyrics and vibes recorded upon their return to South Africa after a European tour. Both men share singing duties and their guitar work intertwines together with amazing fluidity and expression.

Another exemplary album from that veritable musical cornucopia South Africa. Thank you to a dear friend, Phillip for introducing it to me.

            Track Listing:
            01 Ubuhle Bomhlaba
02 Two Birds
03 Silang Mabele
04 Zvinoshamisa
05 When You Come Back
06 Fountain
07 Basimanyana
08 Tontobane
09 Mai Rugare
10 Untitled 12
11 Chibona
12 Red Song
13 Woza

Listen here.

1 comment:

Apurva Bahadur said...

Thanks for sharing! Apurva from Pune, India.