Oliver Mtukudzi is a truly great guitarist, vocalist, performer
and composer. He must be one of the few people to have a beat
named after him:'tuku'! This came about purely from his fans
and Tuku stresses that he was the last to know. The unique tuku
beat comes from a blend of Zimbabwean mbira with the faster
Zulu township mbaqanga.
Oliver started out as a professional musician
when he joined the Wagon Wheels in 1977. Now, along with his
own band The Black Spirits, his appealing voice, captivating
guitar rhythms and superb dance moves make his live performances
really fantastic to experience. In his thrilling live performance
at the Barbican, London in 2001, the audience went quite wild
in their appreciation: they were up dancing right from the start.
The same thing happened at the London Jazz Festival 2002 when
Oliver and his band were at the Royal Festival Hall.
Mtukudzi sings in Shona interspersed with
a bit of English, and the lyrics often have special or hidden
messages. Many of his songs give advice on life. He has a great
many recordings to his credit. On the album Ndega Zvangu
Oliver sings accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, without
his band, because of the tragic deaths of his brother, keyboard
player Robert, guitarist Job Muteswa, and drummer Sam Mutowa
and he dedicates the album to them.
Both the CD Tuku Music, 1998,
and the follow-up album, Paivepo, released in 2000
include beautiful ballads. For example, 'Mabaza' from Tuku
Music, which gives imagery pointing to the devastating effects
of AIDS, is truly exquisite.
On the CD of 2001, Bvuma-Tolerance,
one of the tracks, 'Wasakara', has become the unofficial anthem
of the opposition parties in Zimbabwe. Another song, 'Akoromoka
Awa', is a moving tribute in which Tuku mourns his late colleagues
Sam, Job and Inga and his
late brother Robert.
As well as performing and recording music
Mtukudzi has starred in 2 major Zimbabwean
movies, Jit (1990) and Neria (1991)
and there are soundtrack CDs of both of these. He has also written
a musical about Zimbabwe's street children. Indeed one of the
tracks on the album Ziwere MuKobenhavn is
'Street kid'. Another
project that Mtukudzi is a part of is Mahube, a collaboration
Southern Africa that began in 1998.
In 1995 Mtukudzi represented Zimbabwe at the SADC music
festival in Harare. Futher afield he performed at the MASA Festival
in Abidjan in March 1997. 2002
was a big year for the band to appear at festivals and celebrations:
the Arts Alive Festival, the International Jazz Festival in
Zimbabwe, Tuku's 50th birthday celebration at the Joy of Jazz
Festival, then the Music for Food initiative and Botswana's
Independence Day celebrations.
Over the last 5 years Tuku's music has
deservedly made a significant impact on the world-wide music
scene. At WOMAD Reading in 2001 Mtukudzi's show was broadcast
live on Radio 3's regular World Routes programme. At a workshop
later that day he spoke of his music being able to diffuse tension
and emphasised that it is for everybody.
of Oliver's albums released in 2002 is entitled Vhunze Moto
(see CDs). A track from it,
'Ndakuvara' won the 2002 Kora Award for Best African Arrangement.
The other album, Shanda, is a multimedia tribute in
film, DVD and CD formats which explores Tuku's achievements
using live recordings and interviews. He has won numerous awards
and has featured in many TV programmes and prestigious magazines,
for example Time Africa's article entitled 'The People's Voice'
together with his picture on the front cover. In the 2003 Kora
Awards Tuku won not only the Best Male Artist: Southern Africa
Award but also the Lifetime Achievement Award. Tuku's 47th album,Tsivo
(revenge), is an acoustic studio work recorded in his own studio
in Norton, Zimbabwe. Its 12 tracks have great lyrics and beautiful
acoustic sounds: typical yet highly appealing and original Tuku
style for 2004!