Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Synopsis

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and composer, has performed worldwide and released some 50 albums. One of a handful of artists to have a beat named after him, Mtukudzi blends Zimbabwean traditional sounds with South African township music and American gospel and soul, to compose what is known as Tuku Music. In this biography, Jennifer W. Kyker looks at Mtukudzi's life and art, from his encounters with Rhodesian soldiers during the Zimbabwe war of liberation to his friendship with American blues artist Bonnie Raitt. With unprecedented access to Mtukudzi, Kyker breaks down his distinctive performance style using the Shona concept of "hunhu," or human identity through moral relationships, as a framework. By reading Mtukudzi's life in connection with his lyrics and the social milieu in which they were created, Kyker offers an engaging portrait of one of African music's most recognized performers. Interviews with family, friends, and band members make this a penetrating, sensitive, and uplifting biography of one of the world's most popular musicians.

Excerpt

In 2008, Zimbabweans confronted a political crisis unprecedented since the days of the nation’s liberation war in the 1970s. On March 29, voters around the country went to the polls, casting their ballots in synchronized presidential and parliamentary votes widely referred to as “harmonized” elections. Any impression of electoral harmony could not have been further off the mark, however, for the entire electoral process was marred by violence between the nation’s long-time ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, and the recently formed Movement for Democratic Change, or mdc. Widespread reports of intimidation and torture emerged as zanupf and the mdc jockeyed for position during the campaign season, with each party claiming to be victimized by the other. the situation became even more serious when the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission refused to release the results of the presidential race for several weeks after the vote. Finally breaking its silence, the electoral body declared a draw, scheduling a runoff election for late June. After this announcement, Zimbabweans witnessed an escalation in political violence, followed by the MDC’s withdrawal from the electoral process, multiple attempts at international mediation, and the ultimate formation of a troubled Government of National Unity.

In this uncertain political climate, Harare residents were granted a brief reprieve in the form of the 2008 Harare International Festival of the Arts, which began less than a month after the harmonized elections. Since its inception in 1999, this annual festival, commonly known as hifa, has offered Zimbabweans a collective experience of personal and social renewal. By far the biggest event of the year on Harare’s social calendar, hifa brings together music, dance, theater, and the visual arts; in 2008, its offerings ranged from a Japanese floral exhibition organized by the Zimbabwe Ikebana Society to a night featuring the London Festival Opera performing under the stars in the lush foliage of the Harare Gardens. Embodying a distinctively cosmopolitan Zimbabwean identity, the festival also featured Norwegian acrobatic group Cirkus KhaOom, Italian string quartet Trio Broz, multiracial South African pop group Freshly Ground, Harare’s awardwinning mbira dzavadzimu ensemble Mbira DzeNharira, and a poetry café organized by local author Chirikure Chirikure.

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