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(ZIMBABWE, 2002) @
Dotado de una profunda e indomable voz y un gran talento lírico, Oliver Mtukudzi es uno de los más grandes artistas de África. Oliver Mtukudzi, o "Tuku" como le dicen sus fans, mezcla en su música diferentes tradiciones del Sur de África, incluyendo el mbira, jit, y los estilos percusivos tradicionales del Korekore, logrando un sonido muy particular.
Sus orígenes en la música se remontan a 1977, cuando Tuku se unió a la legendaria Wagon Wheels. En aquella banda tocaba Thomas Mapfumo, pionero del chimurenga, género musical inspirado en el sonido del mbira (una especie de piano pequeño tocado con los pulgares), el cual influenció la carrera de Tuku.
Tras haber grabado exitosos discos con la Wagon Wheels, Mtukudzi convocó a miembros de esta agrupación para armar su proyecto en solitario. The Black Spirits pasó a ser la banda que, hasta la actualidad, lo ha acompañado a lo largo de su carrera.
En 1980, durante el proceso por el cual Zimbabwe obtuvo su independencia, Mtukudzi y sus músicos produjeron "Africa", uno de los álbumes más importantes de su época. Dos canciones de este disco rápidamente se convirtieron en grandes sucesos: "Zimbabwe" y "Mazongonyedze".
Desde entonces, la carrera discográfica de la banda ha sido intensa y profusa, lanzando en muchas oportunidades dos discos por año. Además de la chimurenga, la música de Mtukudzi ha recibido influencias de otros géneros como el mbaqanga sudafricano, el JIT (el enérgico pop de Zimbabwe) y el tradicional katekwe, el sonido percusivo del clan familiar Korekore.
Oliver Mtukudzi was born in Highfield, Harare in 1952. "My first attempt to sing was my birth cry, " says Mtukudzi. Oliver, or "Tuku" to his fans, has had a career that has spanned more than twenty years and 40 original albums (nearly all of them best-sellers). However, it is his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe, & more recently South Africa - playing to enthusiastic audiences in even the remotest parts of the country - that has earned him the place in people"s hearts that he holds today.
Tuku was initiated into the world of professional music in 1977 when he joined the now legendary group Wagon Wheels, which also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Quite a leap from performing in the churches in Highfield. Success came early to them - the first single they recorded, "Dzandimomotera", rapidly went gold, and this was followed by Tuku"s first album on four track which was also a smash hit.
It was with a number of the musicians in the Wagon Wheels line-up that Tuku formed The Black Spirits, the band who have backed him throughout his career. Since independence, Oliver has released two albums every year, establishing himself as a producer, an arranger, a prolific songwriter and, with his famous big voice, a formidable lead singer. He speaks both Shona and Ndebele, and often writes songs in English as well. Tuku has, in fact been so innovative in his music that it is now referred to as Tuku Music and quite distinct from any other Zimbabwean style. This is not, of course, to say that there are no recognisable influences in his work - the traditional forms of mbira, The South African mbaqanga style, the metropolitan beats of Zulu, the rural trance rhythms of Zimbabwe"s Shona people, and the Zimbabwean music JIT all affect it deeply - but these, like Katekwe, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan, the Korekore, are very much absorbed into an art which is now undoubtedly his own. His music is described as "simply beautiful", and "soulfully acoustic" with "clean, complex guitar lines". He is also called the "Grand Master of Zimbabwean Traditional Pop" and is undoubtedly one of the greatest soulful voices of African Music - "the voice of Southern Africa laid bare".Yet apart from the individuality of his music Tuku"s enduring popularity has largely resulted from his powers as a lyricist. Most of his songs focus on the social and economic issues that govern people"s lives and, with an infectious sense of humour and optimism that prevails through all his music; his appeal extends to young and old alike.
Tuku has ventured into the world of film and Drama, participating in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music in the 80"s, however it was not until 1990 that he found film success playing the lead role in the Zimbabwean film "JIT", which was also released in Denmark, France, and the UK. Tuku followed the success of JIT with the role of Neria"s brother in Zimbabwe"s second feature film, Neria, for which he also wrote and arranged the soundtrack. This project addressed the issue of women"s rights in a chauvinist world. Neria proved to be another box office hit in Zimbabwe and earned Oliver the coveted M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992 against stiff competition, including that of the highly acclaimed Sarafina.
From film, Tuku turned his attention to drama, writing and directing the live musical production "Was my Child" - A project highlighting the plight of Zimbabwe"s street children. For this the Zimbabwe writers union honoured him. Oliver has continued to perform regularly in Zimbabwe, but has, however, never confined himself to his home country and has performed at various international events, including travelling through Europe in November 1997 with a collaboration of 12 Southern African Musicians called MAHUBE (amongst others, comprising Steve Dyer on flute / sax and as musical director, Suthukazi Arosi on vocals, Phinda Mtya on vocals, George Phiri on guitar). Mahube"s album, "Music from Southern Africa" was released in 1999, followed by a series of highly successful shows in Johannesburg.
The first album to be manufactured in South Africa, entitled "Tuku Music" (and Oliver"s first release to go Gold in South Africa) and featuring the smash hit "Todii", was recorded at Ikwezi studio in Johannesburg, and went gold in its first month of release in Zimbabwe. The album was also released in the UK and Ireland on Earthsongs, and in the rest of Europe by the Dutch label, Challenge Records. It has also been released in the USA, by the Putumayo World Music label.
"Paivepo", released in 1999 features Tuku on acoustic guitar and vocals with his distinctive voice, as well as his band "The Black Spirits", and guest appearances on two tracks by guitarists Louis Mhlanga and George Phiri. Oliver"s second South African Gold album, released in 2000, entitled "Bvuma - Tolerance" presented 10 new songs in true Tuku style, and was produced by Mahube music director and friend, Steve Dyer. The album also features Steve Dyer, and Themba Mkhize, and the somewhat politically controversial hit song "Wasakara". In 2001, the acclaimed soundtrack for the Award Winning 1992 film, "Neria", was released for the first time on CD in South Africa. The album features the hit song of the same name, as well as a live version by Mahube.
"Vunzhe Moto", featuring all new material, was released in March 2002. Produced once again by Steve Dyer, and co-produced by Oliver, the album also features Steve Dyer on Soprano Sax, Paul Hanmer on keys, as well as Oliver"s extensive and long time band "The Black Spirits". The album features the song "Nda Kuvara" for which Oliver firmed his second music video. As usual the songs are done in typical Tuku style, and many of them carry hidden or direct messages, and tackle issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, alcohol abuse, respect and dignity for fellow man, the importance of family, and traditional Shona proverbs and words of wisdom. (Putumayo World Music picked up the album for European and American release).