Submitted by Craig D. Lindsey — Correspondent
At 60 and with 60 some-odd albums to his credit, its safe to say that Oliver Mtukudzi is one of the most prolific world-music artists of all time. A veteran Zimbawean performer whos been making music since the late 70s, Mtukudzi (or Tuku, to his fans) has toured around the world with his band, the Black Spirits, hitting Africa, Canada, the U.K. and, of course, the U.S. of A.
Well, I think the music carries me on, says Mtukudzi, on the phone from a hotel room in Boston. I just play who I am. I just play me. And Im glad to say weve been coming back to America a lot more times, and its unbelievably been good.
Yes, stateside fans, Mtukudzi is currently making the rounds. Last weekend, he and the Spirits entertained audiences in the Big Apple when they played globalFEST 2013 at New Yorks Webster Hall. Mtukudzi says he enjoys playing around these parts, since American audiences are always intrigued about the music he performs. Well, I truly believe they make what they hear, and it leads them to want to find out what Im talking about in the song, he says.
Born in a ghetto neighborhood in Harare, Zimbabwes capital city, Mtukudzi is famous for making music thats been described as a combination of South African township pop and the Zimbabwean pop style known as jit. But, lyrically, where he sings in his nations dominant Shona language, as well as Ndebele and English, he often speaks on behalf of the people. Songs like Ndakuvara, and Wasakara (You Are Getting Old), have Mtukudzi criticizing the government of aging Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
With the struggles his people have endured throughout the years, with countrymen fighting and dying for freedom and democracy after Zimbabwes independence in 1980, he has always found material for his music. Let me put it this way: as long as there are people, there is always something to talk about, he says. And if there is something to talk about, there is something is sing about. So, all the inspiration comes from the people.
His latest album Sarawoga, almost didnt happen. Well, some of the tracks on Sarawoga, were supposed to be collaborations with my son, he says. In 2010, a car crash took the life of his son Sam, who was also successful musician. And his passing on made me come up with this title Sarawoga being left alone. Its like being left alone to do the music.
Mtukudzi is no stranger to losing loved ones. Hes lost his brother Robert, as well as members of his band, to AIDS. (He became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for eastern and southern Africa last year, where he mostly focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness.)
Mtukudzi continues to make music in honor of those hes lost. Of course, he still enjoys performing. (During the interview, he says audiences should wear their dancing shoes because its not to going to be just a sit-down-and-watch show.) But Mtukudzi also seeks to express who he is and where he comes from. The purpose of an artist is to reflect the lives of the people, to showcase which way to go from here, he says. So, thats what I just do I dont sing for myself. I sing for them.