Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

By Jennifer W. Kyker | Go to book overview

THREE
Singing Hunhu after Independence

On the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence—April 18, 1980—a group of global dignitaries assembled at Rufaro Stadium, just across the road from the hostels built to house temporary male laborers in Mbare township. Drawing a final curtain over the last act of Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime, the British Union Jack was lowered precisely at midnight. In its place rose another flag, featuring the iconic image of the soapstone birds excavated from the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. Shedding its colonial title of Salisbury, the capital city of this independent nation was renamed Harare in tribute to the Neharawa people, who had occupied the area prior to colonization. Streets were likewise rechristened, with the names of Chimurenga heroes such as Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara replacing those of prominent British explorers, such as Cecil John Rhodes and Henry Morton Stanley. On the city’s western edge, atop the rocky kopje previously occupied by Chief Neharahwa, Zimbabwe’s new prime minister, Robert Mugabe, lit an eternal flame, its light beckoning the newly liberated citizens of this modern African nation toward what appeared a brightly shining future.

Deeply woven into these rituals of political transformation, music played an important role at Zimbabwe’s independence ceremony. Regaling the distinguished crowd with the sounds of a new nation, an elated Mtukudzi was among the many local artists invited to perform at a musical gala that culminated in one of the last public appearances by Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley. With limited space in the stadium, however, throngs of ordinary citizens, many of them local Mbare residents, were shut out of the festivities. Desperate to get inside, they mobbed the gates when Marley’s turn to perform finally arrived, prompting the already jittery police to fire tear gas into the crowd. Wafting onto stage, the stinging fumes disrupted Marley’s performance for over an hour, dampening the ceremony’s celebratory atmosphere. In the chaos, many of those waiting outside managed to make their way into the stadium, resulting in a decidedly more popular audience for the second portion of Marley’s set.1

Around the nation, popular musicians joined Mtukudzi in commemorating Zimbabwe’s transition to majority rule, raising their voices in song after song of celebration. As scholar Alec Pongweni has observed, their lyrics were “ecstatic, oozing gratitude to the guardian spirits of the nation, who had guided the people

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Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - The Art of Determination 3
  • One - Hwaro/Foundations 31
  • Two - Performing the Nation’s History 59
  • Three - Singing Hunhu after Independence 85
  • Four - Neria- Singing the Politics of Inheritance 109
  • Five - Return to Dande 127
  • Six - Listening as Politics 147
  • Seven - What Shall We Do?- Music, Dialogue, and HIV/AIDS 169
  • Eight - Listening in the Wilderness 203
  • Conclusion - I Have Finished My Portion of the Field 219
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 275
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