When someone asks you who you are seeing in concert, and you
say, "Oliver Mtukudzi", what you get is a blank stare, even more
so cause you are excited when you are telling them this. But that's just
cause they don't know just how cool a show you are about to see. In fact,
Oliver Mtukudzi brings his fusion of pop/rock from
in much the same way as a current-day Bruce Springsteen and could enjoy the
same type of success as Santana does if he is promoted right. In short, a
concert by "Tuku" as he is known is a true celebration and I was
lucky enough to catch him at the Triple Door on June 29th (I have seen him
at WOMAD twice and Bumbershoot as well).
The Triple Door is a
much bigger venue than Jazz Alley, but it's hard to tell at the front door.
You go through a hallway by a big aquarium and a much smaller club which is
free to go into while you wait for the show. But the club is downstairs and
my friend Nick and I were led to a beautiful stage area where we were given
dead front and center seats - I know I was gonna have a good time! The food
and drinks are pricey, but that is in keeping with jazz clubs in general.
When Oliver finally took to the stage, the crowds cheered for their hero. I
felt so honored to be in the front like I was at a special table that Oliver
allowed us to be at, sorta. =) Performing some stirring songs as well as
previews from the newest album and saving his big stuff for the end, Oliver
got people coming down from their seats to dance in the front row with us
The dance routines performed on stage are just as fun to watch as it is to
hear the lively music. Oliver and his band members have a sense of fun that
they bring to each and every song and even if you don't understand the words
(as is the case with me) you still get the message. At one point, Oliver
himself said it's all about how the music brings people together, no matter
what is going on in the world. And that's a very positive message indeed.
Me after the show! What a great time!
Oliver Mtukudzi is the best-selling artist in his home country of
. Lovingly called "Tuku" for short, Oliver began recording in the
mid-1970s as a member of Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas
Mapfumo. After Wagon Wheels rolled to fame in
, Tuku formed Black Spirits, the band that has backed him throughout his
Tuku has been heavily influenced by chimurenga, the genre pioneered by
Mapfumo that is inspired by the hypnotic rhythms of the mbira (thumb piano).
However chimurenga is just one of many styles performed by Tuku, as his
music also incorporates pop influences, South African mbaqanga, the
energetic Zimbabwean pop style JIT, or the traditional kateke drumming of
his clan, the Korekore.
While Tukuís music is undeniably contagious, it is his lyrics that have
captured the hearts of his people. The words to his songs, performed in the
Shona language of
as well as English, invariably deal with social and economic issues. In the
face of political turmoil and a horrific AIDS epidemic that has swept the
African continent, Oliver's humor and optimism creates an appeal that
crosses generations. One of Tukuís biggest fans is Bonnie Raitt, who has
not only called Oliver "a treasure", but has also used his music
as inspiration for the song "One Belief Away" on her album
Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits Web site - http://www.ritmoartists.com/Mtukudzi/mtukudzi.htm