Those who have had the opportunity to see this South African singer-songwriter performing “When You Come Back” on the 2005 Live 8 Festival broadcast remember how his music is both raw and accomplished in a unique manner—he sings and plays with plenty of soul and emotion, and is also able to make the music accessible to Western audiences by incorporating sonic elements from reggae, Latin American music and rock, which has led him to collaborate with the likes of Dave Matthews, Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks and Xavier Rudd, all of whom appear on his latest disc, “Guiding Star” (ATO Records). Born in South Africa in 1965, Mahlasela began making music on a homemade guitar made of tin and fishing line while still a child; he went on to become one of the main voices against the cruel Apartheid in his native country, and as a result began to face threats from the regime. “It was the only way you could get the regime to listen,” he explains about that time. “Through music, they could hear what we had to say.” On the new disc, he continues his musical quest with songs that blend his African sound with several other influences. On the romantic “Heaven In My Heart,” he is joined by Ladysmith Black Mambazo for a song about love that comes when one has almost lost hope of ever finding it; In “Every Time,” he fondly recalls the love for his home country from the perspective of someone who is on the road through the figure of a mystical woman. The guitars go together with lush orchestration and Jem’s beautiful supporting vocals. For his current tour, he will be performing with the same four-piece band that has accompanied him around the world. “It will be songs from the new album, plus other material from other albums,” he says.
Friday, April 25 at Old Town School of Folk Music