Top South African university to honour another ‘African legend’ with a music degree

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Musician Vusi Mahlasela. He is to be conferred with an honorary degree by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) at its graduation this April. Pic: Online

By Khanyile Mlotshwa 

A TOP South African university will confer an honorary degree on musician, Vusi Mahlasela at its graduation in April this year.

This comes a year after the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) honoured Hugh Masekela, who died early this year, with a similar degree.

According to a management communique from the office of the registrar, the UKZN will honour Mahlasela alongside Trueman Tandabantu Goba, Dr Pali Lehohla and Professor Tebello Nyokong at its April graduation ceremony.

Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah will be honoured at the September graduation.

“I am pleased to advise that Senate and Council have approved the nominations to confer honorary degrees in 2018 on five distinguished individuals for their unique and outstanding contributions that have had a profound impact on society locally and at a global level,” the
communique read in part.

Mahlasela will be awarded a Doctor of Music degree, Goba will be given the Doctor of Science in Engineering degree, Dr. Lehohla will be awarded a Doctor of Science degree, Professor Nyokong will be awarded a Doctor of Science degree and Professor Appiah will receive a Doctor of Literature degree.

In April 2017, the UKZN honoured the late musician, Hugh Masekela, widely regarded as an African legend, with a Doctor of Music degree for his outstanding contribution to the music industry.

According to the university’s communique Mahlasela deserves the accolade because he is, “internationally renowned for his poetic and unique voice and his songs which carry a message of freedom and humanity.”

Mahlasela is an internationally renowned guitarist, percussionist, composer, arranger, band leader and performer “who wrote songs of justice, of freedom, of revolution, of love and peace and of life during the Apartheid years which inspired the anti-apartheid
movement.”

He is involved in community work as he is focused on helping younger generations, supporting Africa’s future generation of musicians and songwriters through the foundation he created in 2000.

“Mahlasela’s music is about Africa and the African people and is generally described as ‘African Folk’,” the university said.

“As one of the greatest singer-song writers the country has produced in the liberation tradition Mahlasela and his work compliments the ideals of our University. The singer’s roots are in Mamelodi Township, where his musical influences were American records of musicians such as James Brown and The Commodores and South African musicians such as Mahotella Queens, Miriam Makeba, Dark City Sisters and Fela Kuti.”

Mahlasela was moved to write songs of justice after he witnessed “the devastating massacre of more than 200 Black South Africans in the Soweto Uprising of 1976”.

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