Mahlasela wows

2010-09-28 00:00

IF you missed this weekend’s White Mountain Folk Festival then you missed one of the best performances by a South African artist I’ve seen in years.

The legendary Vusi Mahlasela had the festival crowds eating out of his hands from the first note of his set on Saturday night and earned a standing ovation from the music lovers in the big tent.

His set included the beautiful Thula Mamma, Weeping (the song he recorded with Josh Groban and Ladysmith Black Mambazo for his album The Voice), and Say Africa, the title track from his new album, due out this month. Definitely one worth adding to your music collection when it hits the shops.

It’s been quite a year for the singer, who shared the stage with fellow African artists Angelique Kidjo, Hugh Masekela and Tinariwen, and international stars Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys at the World Cup opening concert at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium. His next major gig is the 30th annual John Lennon Tribute on November 12 at the Beacon Theatre in New York.

Former Tree63 frontman, John Ellis, was given the tough task of following Mahlasela on Saturday night — a point not lost on the Durban singer, who has just released his first solo album, Come Out Fighting.

But to his credit he not only kept the vibe created by Mahlasela going but even amped it up with tracks like Come Out Fighting, A Luta Continua and Own Way Home from the new album, a great cover of Sting’s Message in a Bottle, and a couple of Tree63 classics. Ellis also did a rocking version of the national anthem that had the crowd patriotically singing along.

But Mahlasela and Ellis were only two of the many artists performing at the festival this year. Other acts included Ard Matthews (frontman for Just Jinger), the Jack Mantis band, Shannon Cope, Nibs van der Spuy, Tonmy Cox, Margaret’s Daughter, and Shannon Kenny and Alan Judd.

The fantastic weather in the Drakensberg also meant that festivalgoers got to enjoy walking in the mountains, fishing in the dam and lounging round by the pool.

This was my first-ever White Mountain and I absolutely loved the laid-back, family-friendly vibe. If you want a weekend of great music and the chance to chill out in one of the country’s most beautiful spaces, then make sure you put next year’s dates in your diary — September 23-25.

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