Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

By Jennifer W. Kyker | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Listening in the Wilderness

Half a world away from Pakare Paye, the Kuumbwa Jazz Center sits a few blocks away from the ruggedly beautiful Pacific coastline in downtown Santa Cruz, California. With the intimate ambiance of a dinner club, Kuumbwa regularly hosts worldbeat and jazz shows, drawing precisely the type of listeners who have proved the mainstay of Mtukudzi’s North American audience. Pulling up in front of Kuumbwa early one evening in 2007, the Black Spirits were greeted by the sounds of a local Zimbabwean-style band named Sadza Marimba, which played a short opening set in the club’s small, outdoor courtyard. In a blur of mallets, the band infused the crisp October air with the warm tones of their wooden keys, launching into an arrangement of the familiar Shona children’s song “Sarura Wako.”1 Taken by surprise, several of the Black Spirits lingered in the dusk to listen before heading backstage.

The subdued atmosphere of Kuumbwa seemed far removed from the chaotic energy of Mtukudzi’s performances back home, where massive crowds of listeners reveled in his sound. Yet even here, a small group of diasporic Zimbabweans was engaged in the participatory behavior typical of Mtukudzi’s shows in Harare. Leaving their tables, they congregated in the tight space behind a row of chairs, where they danced with increasing abandon as the night progressed. Executing complex makwa handclapping patterns, whistling, and ululating, they frequently shouted words of encouragement to the musicians, punctuating Mtukudzi’s songs with their calls—“Aiwa, ridza! Ridza!” (Go ahead, play! Play!), “Ona, ona, ona, ona!” (Look, look, look, look!), and “Rova marimba mufana, rova!” (Hit the marimba, young man, hit it!), directed particularly at marimba player Charles Chipanga.

The band played several hits from the 1970s, including “Ndipeiwo Zano,” “Mutavara,” and “Ziwere,” as well as songs from subsequent periods of Mtukudzi’s career. Introducing their penultimate song of the night, a fast-tempo dance piece titled “Wenge Mambo” (Bvuma-Tolerance, 2000), Mtukudzi explicitly identified it as an adapted katekwe song, firmly tying Tuku music back to the ngoma music of Zimbabwe’s rural northeast. As the Black Spirits launched into the first notes of “Wenge Mambo,” its densely syncopated polyrhythms brought the

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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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