Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

By Jennifer W. Kyker | Go to book overview

FIVE
Return to Dande

In 1998, Mtukudzi responded to the growing concern over his artistic choices by releasing a blockbuster album, titled simply Tuku Music. In the words of one Zimbabwean journalist, the record “broke a five-year jinx for Mtukudzi, whom many had ruled out musically.”1 Lauded in the local press, Tuku Music both heralded Mtukudzi’s reemergence within the local music scene and catapulted him onto a global stage. A gem of an album, its nine tracks flowed together effortlessly, immersing listeners in the magnetic strains of a perfect groove. As always, the rich, gravelly tones of Mtukudzi’s melodious voice were foregrounded within the mix, conveying a soulful, emotional quality even for listeners unfamiliar with Shona. Addressing a wide range of contemporary Zimbabwean social issues, from AIDS to child abuse, the album marked a return to the musical imaginaries of hunhu that had long defined Mtukudzi’s music.

Recorded at South Africa’s Ikwezi Studios, Tuku Music was produced by Mtukudzi’s long-time friend and colleague Steve Dyer, now back in South Africa after his many years of self-imposed exile in Zimbabwe. In its lyrics and musical arrangements, Tuku Music struck many listeners as the work of a mature artist at the height of his musical prowess. As Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure, who participated in writing the album’s liner notes, remarked, the album “marked a turning point, brought a new dimension to Tuku.”2 Alongside regular members of the Black Spirits, Tuku Music featured a number of special guests, including guitarist Louis Mhlanga, keyboard player Keith Farquharson, percussionist Tlale Makhene, and bassist Herbie Tsoaeli. Joining these guest artists, the Black Spirits’ backing singers Mary Bell and Mwendi Chibindi contributed tightly harmonized vocal lines, their voices blending together as if woven from a single thread. Throughout, the interlocking melodies of Mtukudzi’s songs remained surprisingly spacious, offering listeners a musical texture that never seemed crowded or busy.

In this chapter, I illustrate how Mtukudzi’s invocation of his origins in the rural region of Dande imbued Tuku Music with a unique historical, geographic, and cultural identity. Emphasizing his Korekore heritage, Mtukudzi put forth a claim to autochthonous identity by positioning himself as a Zimbabwean “son

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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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