Oliver Mtukudzi, one of the most important figures in Zimbabwean music in the past decades, died on January 23, 2019 at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Oliver Mtukudzi, also known as “Tuku,” was born on September 22, 1952 in Harare. He was an acclaimed guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, composer, actor, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the southern Africa Region.
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was born September 22, 1952 in Highfield, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Oliver’s professional music career spanned more than thirty years and produced over 40 original albums most of them best sellers in his native Zimbabwe. But it was his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe – playing to enthusiastic audiences in even the remotest parts of the country that earned him the respect and admiration of the people in Zimbabwe.
Tuku burst into the world of music in 1977 when he joined the now legendary Wagon Wheels which also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Success came to them early – the first single they recorded together “Dzandimomotera” rapidly went gold and was followed by Tuku’s first solo album (recorded on four tracks) which was also a smash hit. It was with a number of the musicians from the Wagon Wheels line-up that Oliver formed the Black Spirits the band that backed him throughout his career.
After Zimbabwean Independence in 1980, Oliver and the Black Spirits produced “Africa” one of the most important albums of its time and with the two hits it generated, ‘Zimbabwe’ and ‘Mazongonyedze’ the fledgling country found one of its first great voices.
Since Independence, Oliver released two albums every year, establishing himself as a producer/arranger a prolific songwriter and a formidable lead singer. Tuku was so innovative in these various fields that his distinctive music style is now widely described as “Tuku Music”. This is not to suggest that there are no recognizable influences in his work.
The traditional forms of mbira, the South African mbaqanga and the popular jit styles all affected it deeply – but these like katekwe, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan the Korekore were very much absorbed into a music form indubitably his own.
Apart from the individuality of his music Tuku’s enduring popularity largely resulted from his powers as a lyricist. Most of his songs focused on the social and economic issues that govern people’s daily lives. His infectious sense of optimism that pervaded all his music appealed to young and old alike.
His commitment to fighting the AIDs pandemic through his open approach to the topic in his songs contributed greatly to restoring a sense of care and responsibility within the wider community. As the oldest of seven children Oliver developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life due to the premature death of his father.
Oliver’s desire to bring his message to a wider audience led him to venture into the worlds of film and stage. Although he participated in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music during the 1980s including the BBC’s Under African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira it was not until 199 that Tuku found film success with a featured role in the internationally heralded JIT – the first local feature film with an all Zimbabwean cast.
Tuku followed the success of JIT with the role of the title character’s brother in Zimbabwe’s second feature film Neria for which he also wrote and arranged the soundtrack. A serious drama dealing with the thorny issue of woman’s rights in a chauvinist world, Neria proved to be another box-office triumph in Zimbabwe and earned Oliver the coveted M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992 against stiff competition, including that of the highly acclaimed Sarafina.
From film, Tuku turned his attention to the stage writing and directing the live musical-drama Was my Child a project highlighting the plight of Zimbabwe’s street children. For this accomplishment the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union honored him.
Oliver Mtukudzi and his band The Black Spirits toured North America in 1999 as part of Africa Fete appearing at many of the premier festivals and stages across the continent.
In April of 2005 Tuku released Nhava (HUCD 312) his debut album on Heads Up International. Mtukudzi said the album – named after the Zimbabwean word for “carrying bag” – is a satchel filled with nuggets of advice encouragement and wisdom for travelers on the journey of life as they make their way through an often-perilous world.
“Every song on this album has something to teach about life something to remind you and encourage you about what is important in life ,“ said Mtukudzi who built a vast body of work by skillfully balancing compelling African rhythms and accessible melodies to address social issues relevant to not only his native Zimbabwe but to people and cultures everywhere. “All of these ideas are universal. They are the same for every human being regardless of their culture or their environment.”
Oliver Mtukudzi died on January 23, 2019 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Tuku Music (Putumayo 152 1999) Paivepo (Putumayo 168 2000) Neria (Sheer Sound 2001) Vhunze Moto (Putumayo 199 2002) Bvuma / Tolerance (Sheer Sound 2002) Shoko (Gallo Records 2002) Greatest Hits the Tuku Years (Sheer Sound 2003) Shanda (Alula Records 2003) Oliver Mtukudzi Collection (Putumayo 214 2003) Nhava (Heads Up International HUCD 312 2005) Wonai (Sheer Sound 2006) Tsimba Itsoka (Heads Up International 2007) Dairai (Believe) (2008) Rudaviro (Tuku Music 2010) Kutsi Kwemoyo (2010) Abi’angu (2011) Sarawoga (2012)
Kasahwa:Early Singles introduces for the first time a set of rare early recordings by Zimbabwean mbira (thumb piano) pioneer Stella Chiweshe. These fascinating singles were only released in Zimbabwe and are very hard to find.
Most of the tracks were recorded in the 1970s and early 1980s, featuring solo mbira as well as mbira with vocals and shakers. Nick Robbins remastered these recordings for Kasahwa and are now available on CD, vinyl and digital.
Playing mbira as a woman was a very difficult task. It was traditionally played by men and Stella Chiweshe had a lot of difficulty finding a teacher and an mbira maker willing to build one for her one. Eventually, she borrowed one and recorded her first single.
Stella Chiweshe became a local sensation. After Zimbabwe became an independent nation in1980, Chiweshe started touring internationally, first as a soloist of the new National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, and later under her own name.
Kasahwa: Early Singles showcases the pioneering work of Stella Chiweshe on the mesmerizing mbira.
The Arts Center in Carrboro, North Carolina has announced the 2018-19 world Music Season. The series begins on Saturday, September 9th with Black Umfolosi, a Zimbabwean vocal and dance quintet that performs traditional imbue a cappella song and gumboot dance.
The following week, on Thursday, September 13th, the Austin Piazzolla Quintet will perform works by celebrated Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla along with original compositions.
Other shows include:
10/11/2018: Lulo Reinhardt and Daniel Stelter
German gypsy jazz guitar duo
10/13/2018: Rio Mira
Colombian / Ecuadorian marimba and percussion group
10/19/2018: Sona Jobarteh
Groundbreaking Gambian female griot & kora prodigy
2/10/2019: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
Celtic fiddle and cello duo
3/29/2019: La Patronal
Peruvian traditional brass band
For tickets and more information go to The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St. Carrboro, NC 27510
Phone: (919) 929-2787
Zimbabwean sensation Mokoomba will be back in the United States this summer for a summer too. The band made its SXSW debut in March 2018 and was inducted into the Afropop Worldwide Hall of Fame on May 3rd.
This five week tour starts in June and will go across the continent, making stops from the Midwest to Los Angeles and the California desert to Washington DC, and New England.
The band’s discography includes Kweseka (Zig Zag World, 2009), Rising Tide (Zig Zag Word / Igloo Mondo, 2012) and Luyando (Outhere Records, 2017)
Mokoomba Summer 2018 Tour Dates:
6/1 North St Cabaret, Madison, WI
6/3 Central Park Sessions, Madison, WI
6/6 The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
6/8 Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
6/9 Miracle Theater, Los Angeles, CA
6/13 Arroyo Seco Live Series, Taos, NM
6/22 Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD
6/23 World Refugee Day Event, Creative Alliance, Baltimore
6/25 African American Civil War Museum, Washington DC
6/28 Fine Arts Council, Warren, OH
6/29 Fine Arts Council, Warren, OH
7/1 Shadyside Nursery, Pittsburgh, PA
7/3 The State House, New Haven, CT
7/4 Feast & Field, Barnard, VT
7/6 The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH
7/7 EarthSkyTime Farm, Manchester, VT
7/8 Middlebury Festival on the Green, Middlebury, VT
Zimbabwean band Mokoomba, an increasingly popular world music act, will be touring the United States in February and March 2018 in support of its 2017 album, Luyando.
The tour will include Mokoomba’s debut at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas and a week-long residency at the Zimbabwe Cultural Center of Detroit.
Winter 2018 United States Tour Dates:
February 22: BRIC House, Brooklyn, NY
February 24: House of Blues, Boston, MA
February 28 – March 7: Residency: Zimbabwe Cultural Center of Detroit, Detroit, MI
March 9: Taos Brewing Co, Taos, NM
March 11: The Dirty Bourbon Saloon, Albuquerque NM
March 14: SXSW: Russian House, Austin, TX
March 15: SXSW: Flamingo Cantina, Austin, TX
March 16: Freedom Hall, Forest Park IL
Dr. Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo became a star as Zimbabwe entered its revolution in the mid 1970s. His musical radio messages speaking out against political and social tyranny led to his arrest in 1979 by the white Rhodesian government. After his release from prison Thomas and his band performed at concerts celebrating the return of black rule in 198 ending decades of oppression. Thomas is a real voice of the people and remains a worldwide musical and political hero to the present day.
Thomas Tafirenyika Mukanya Mapfumo was born on July 2nd 1945 in the town of Marondera in Zimbabwe. He learned to play music at an early age. His mother was a talented musician and his grandparents would hold all-night parties featuring traditional instruments such as the drums and mbiras.
Thomas Mapfumo plays a style of music that is known as chimurenga. Chimurenga is a Shona word that means struggle. The term was invented by Mapfumo to describe a style of music that combined Shona roots music based on the mbira with modern instruments and his critical socio-political messages. He leads a large band called Black Unlimited.
In January of 2001 he moved temporarily to the United States. That same year he was given an honorary doctorate degree by Ohio State University (USA). Eventually the move to the United States became permanent. He now resides in Eugene, Oregon.
Shumba (Earthworks, 1990)
Gwindingwi Rine Shumba (Chimurenga Music, 1981)
Mabasa (Chimurenga Music, 1983)
Ndangariro (Afro Soul, 1983)
Chimurenga For Justice (Rough Trade, 1985)
Mr Music (Africa) (Afro Soul, 1985)
Zimbabwe Mozambique (Chimurenga Music, 1988) Chamunorwa (Chimurenga Music, 1989)
Varombo Kuvarombo (Chimurenga Music, 1989)
Corruption (Mango, 1989)
Chimurenga Masterpiece (Chimurenga Music, 1990)
Hondo (Chimurenga Music, 1991)
Chimurenga International (Chimurenga Music, 1993)
Roots Chimurenga (Chimurenga Music, 1996)
Chimurenga ’98 (Anonymous Web Productions, 1998)
Live at El Rey (Anonymous Web Productions, 1999) Chimurenga Explosion (Anonymous Web Productions, 2000) Rise Up (Real World Records, 2006)
Live @ The Sanctuary for Independent Media (Chimurenga Music, 2016)
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is an acclaimed Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has become well known in the world music circuit, performing throughout the globe. On Living Tuku Music, the author focuses on several essential elements connected to Oliver Mtukudzi and his songs.
The first part of the book concentrates on Mtukudzi’s beginnings and musical development. Mtukudzi is known for his combination of Zimbabwean traditional sounds with South African township music and African American gospel and soul. Many of his fans know this sound as a new genre called Tuku Music. Oliver Mtukudzi has released over 50 albums, including various international releases on different record labels.
Even though Oliver Mtukudzi has tried to stay away from direct political activism, he has promoted tolerance and has been a strong advocate for public health campaigns. The book dedicates a considerable section to the AIDs epidemic in Zimbabwe and how Mtukudzi wrote songs and toured promoting public health.
Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe includes substantial interviews with family, friends, and members of Oliver Mtukudzi’s band.
Oliver Mtukudzi is still an essential figure in Zimbabwean music and Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe describes the excited reactions of audiences outside Zimbabwe that include members of the Zimbabwean diaspora.
The author of the book is Jennifer W. Kyker, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Eastman School of Music and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester, New York.
Oliver Mtukudzi, Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe
Author: Jennifer W. Kyker
Series: African Expressive Cultures
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is one of the first African women to enter the male dominated world of the mbira.
Stella Chiweshe was born in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro in 1946. She started to sing when she was very young, herding cattle with her grandfather. She learned how to play the mbira in 1966 just as her deceased grandfather had prophesized. At the beginning, she performed in Zimbabwe as a ritual musician during funerals weddings and other ceremonies.
In 1974 she had a hit with single “Kassahwa,” which reached gold status.
During the 1980s, Stella Chiweshe toured worldwide working as an actress and a solo dancer with the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe.
Stella Chiweshe is now married to a German citizen and spends most of her time in the central European nation. In Germany she teaches mbira and dance.
Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo was born on the 26th of June in 1975. He started his career as a professional musician in 199 in Bulawayo, in the South of Zimbabwe.
Ramadu´s original name ´Dumisani´ means ´to praise´ and the family name ´Moyo´ means ´heart´. When he started his solo career he chose Ramadu as his artistic name the name however does not have a special meaning to Ndebele language speakers it simply comes out of the nickname for Dumisani, known as D-u-m-a-r-a when spelled backwards.
At an early age, when he attended the Mzlikazi Primary School he discovered his bond to the traditional music and dance of his country. Ramadu’s first teacher was the well-known Kalanga singer and dancer Mr. Malaba who used to visit schools to teach and revive traditional music and dance. At the same time the world famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo were a model for Ramadu and had great influence on his music.
After working unsuccessfully as a handyman in different companies, Ramadu decided to make music his career this had always been one great ambition. In 1990 he joined the cappella group Insingizi Emnyama where he sang bass and lead vocals.
Ramadu recorded his first solo album “Izambulelo” (which means Revelations) in the summer of 2001 which was released by ARC Music Int. in January 2002. It presents a mixture self-composed and traditional songs from home town combining modern sounds. Lyrics are written mostly in Ndebele language – Ramadu’s mother tongue. His focus is to develop and popularise the traditional music of his culture and make it more accessible to other cultures.
In the fall of 2010 Ramadu formed The Afro-Vibes who support him live on stage. The combination consists of excellent musicians from different cultural origin who manage to blend characteristics of Western popular music West African Makosa and South African Isicathamiya.
Ndebele has some similarities with the South African Zulu language such as the “clicks” which can be heard in Miriam Makeba´s songs. As well as the language, the music of the hometown of Ramadu is very much influenced by South African music.