519. Vusi Mahlasela – “The Voice”

I have a question for all you music lovers out there: what is your approach to music in a language you don’t understand?

Do you seek out a translation of the lyrics at all? Do you try to imagine what a song might be ‘about’?  Or do you just let it wash over you?

This ‘best of’ tunes from South African maestro Mahlasela features songs in a variety of that nation’s languages.  Some are in English, such as this one:

Others are impenetrable to me, but it matters little, as Vusi’s voice is truly captivating.  He seems to conjure up some universal language of joy and hurt.

He plucks out a rhythm on occasion with his vocals (doing that clicking and breathing thing of his countrymen, but in a less cheesy fashion).

This album purchase followed seeing him live about six years ago, a show that certainly entranced my missus and I.  It is still a thrill that this album captures much of the revelatory nature of that show.

On a strange aside, on several songs Mahlasela’s voice evokes Peter Gabriel, yet none of the tunes seemed as contrived or overwrought as Gabriel’s.  I wonder if I would think the same thing if I understood the language?

File under: He IS the voice

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