We interviewed South African musician and activist Vusi Mahlasela in New York's Central Park on Earth Day 2008. In the second part of this interview, he talks about how his work to support causes like 46664 and his own Music Development Foundation.
More about Vusi:
"Born Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane in 1965 in Lady Selborne, South Africa, Mahlasela became enchanted by music at an early age, building his first guitar out of tin and fishing line. Reared in Mamelodi Township, a vibrant artist community where he still resides, he gravitated toward poetry and songwriting as a teen, eventually joining youth organizations protesting South Africa's separatist, white government."
"Reading poems at night vigils, funerals and anti-Apartheid marches triggered a long streak of police harassment. Local police soon began requiring that he keep them abreast of his whereabouts at all times, and his poems and songs were routinely confiscated—forcing him to memorize his work. It was a time when people like him would 'just disappear indefinitely,' he recalls, or, in Mahlasela's case, be held for periods of time. 'Somehow you get some sort of courage. You look at what's happening to your comrades, and you see that their struggle has to be testified—and you don't have to be afraid.'"
"In 1988, he joined the Congress of South African Writers, developing a new level of confidence as a poet and a writer. He struck up a creative friendship with South African poet Lesego Rampolokeng (who joins Mahlasela and Dave Matthews on 'Sower of Words'), while falling under the spell of artists like Miriam Makeba and Phillip Tabane and the work of Victor Jara— all central influences on Mahlasela's music and lyrics."
[Video edited by Mirko Manegold.]