Mtukudzi set to perform in Australia

The West Australian

With his deep soulful delivery and husky laugh, veteran singer Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is the most recognised voice to emerge from Zimbabwe. His effervescent signature sound mixing musical and cultural traditions, dubbed Tuku Music, is one of the driving forces of Southern African music. Since the late 1970s, the 63-year-old cultural icon has released more than five dozen albums — one for every year of his life. He regularly tours internationally, appearing at prestigious festivals such as UK’s WOMAD, the Italian International Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Over the phone from his home in Harare, Mtukudzi reflects on his long career. “Above all, I thank God for giving me time to have such a long history,” he says. Four members of his long-serving band the Black Spirits have died of AIDS. His brother Robert, who founded the band in 1975, died of the disease in the 1980s and his son Sam Mtukudzi, also a band member, died in a car accident in 2010. Mtukudzi’s sociopolitical songs, sung in his native Shona and English, reflect the life and struggles of his people. Time Magazine described him as “the voice of the voiceless” for his championing of solidarity, hope and healing. In 2011, he was appointed the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa. “I represent Zimbabweans regardless of their political or religious leanings,” says the award-winning African musical giant who is bringing his greatest hits tour to Australia next month. “People come to my shows and they sing and dance together in harmony.” Mtukudzi scored his first hit Dzandimomotera in the mid-70s during the war of independence against Britain with a group called Wagon Wheels — a band that also featured “the Lion Of Zimbabwe”, Thomas Mapfumo. Soon he was fronting his own fusion band the Black Spirits, with whom he has recorded and performed since. For his Australian tour with a six-piece line-up, Mtukudzi has dispensed with the traditional mbira (thumb piano) and marimba in favour of guitars, keyboards and percussion. Forming part of his repertoire will be hits such as Todii, Huroi, Haidyoreke and Hear Me Lord, along with selections from the album Sarawoga, which means “left alone” and was inspired by the death of his son, and latest release, Mukombe Wemvura. “I don’t write set-lists,” he says. “I just look for the first song and then everything falls into place.”

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