NEWS
17/04/2018 13:12 SAST | Updated 17/04/2018 13:16 SAST

Illness Prevents Vusi Mahlasela From Accepting His Honorary Degree

Mahlasela is one of the finest songwriters in South Africa, specialising in folk rhythms that have captured audiences across the world.

Valentin Flauraud / Reuters
South African singer / songwriter Vusi Mahlasela.

Music legend Vusi Mahlasela was supposed to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal for his contribution to music this week, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness.

The musician was scheduled to be honoured by the institution on Monday.

"Regrettably, Mr Vusi Mahlasela, one of the honorary graduands who was due to receive a Doctor of Music, was unable to attend the ceremony due to ill health," the university's acting executive director of corporate relations, Normah Zondo said.

"The university wishes him a speedy recovery and hopes that he will be well enough to join us at our spring graduation ceremony in September 2018," Zondo added.

Mahlasela is one of the finest songwriters in South Africa, specialising in folk rhythms that have captured audiences across the world.

He is particularly special, because he is one of the artists who used his voice against the apartheid government – and as a result, he performed at Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration in 1994.

He also went on to perform at Madiba's 90th birthday party.

In the 1990s, after the release of Nelson Mandela and the first democratic elections in South Africa, Mahlasela landed recording deals that resulted in a series of albums, European and African tours, as well as major South African music awards.

Signed to Shifty Records/BMG records, he finally recorded his first album – a collection of songs he'd been writing his whole life.

"When You Come Back" is a song to his friends and the political exiles who had left the country, telling them that "we will ring the bells and beat the drums when you come back".

Mahlasela was born in 1965 and raised by his grandmother in Mamelodi outside Pretoria. A self-taught guitarist, he built his first guitars from cooking-oil cans, with fishing-wire for strings.

Novelist Nadine Gordimer, who calls Mahlasela a "national treasure", took an interest in him at an early age and arranged guitar lessons. Soon Mahlasela was performing at political rallies across the country, singing about South Africans' struggles under the apartheid system.