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Tuku: The seasoned social and cultural activist


I know my music has touched many people and made a difference to them ... Oliver Mtukudzi

14/12/2014 00:00:00
by Sowetan
 
 
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MUSIC legend Oliver Mtukudzi turned 62 in October, and promptly released his 62nd album, titled Mukombe We Mvura, meaning "calabash of water" in Shona.

In it Mtukudzi goes into his well-known territory of metaphoric social commentary, but this time taking stock of his life.

The 10-track album was recorded live at his studio, Pakare Paye in Norton. Tuku's prowess as composer, guitarist and live musician is well loved across the continent and the world.

His first album Ndipeiwo Zano was released in 1978 with the band Wagon Wheels, when he was 26. His 61st album came out in 2012 and sold about 5,000 copies while the latest has already clocked 2,000.

In October, President Robert Mugabe, as chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, conferred an honorary doctor of philosophy in ethno-musicology degree for his "sterling contribution to music in Zimbabwe".

Some observers feel this points to Tuku's slackened form as the voice of reason in his country's political climate. Mtukudzi, however, has always maintained that he is no politician but a storyteller through music.

He does not imagine himself doing anything else except making music. His music explores general issues that affect people. And through his music he imparts life's lessons.

In the song Zvineita Tikudzwe, for example, Mtukudzi dishes out words, saying it's not about what you achieve in life, but what you overcome.

"I know my music has touched many people and made a difference to them. I would like to continue doing that," he told Sowetan.

Though he borrows from the traditional local style and idiom, just like other Zimbabwean musicians, Mtukudzi's sound remains distinctively his own.

A busy and favourite live act, also in South Africa, Tuku already has a string of performances confirmed across the border until January 1. He has a house in Boksburg but still lives in Zimbabwe.

He is one of the main attractions at the Buyel'ekhaya Annual Pan African Music Festival in East London on December 21.

"I look forward to celebrating 20 years of democracy with the people in East London. We have prepared a much more energetic set and it will be highly memorable."

Mtukudzi says he's looking forward to performing with fellow music icon Papa Wemba from the DR Congo, and young South African talent.



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As an experienced campaigner and activist, he has learnt to appreciate what makes Africans unique from other people.

At the launch of the Hugh Masekela Annual Lecture at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto earlier this year, Mtukudzi was vocal about cultural issues.

He argues that Africans rushed to keep up with a fast-changing world, forgetting their own culture. He maintains that speaking English with an accent doesn't make one successful in life.

Mtukudzi says Africans forget that their languages are part of the heritage that make Africa unique.

He asks: "If we lose all these things, who are we? What do we have to offer anyone?"

The topic of culture and heritage does not only end with his music but Tuku also takes it further to schools where he talks to young people. His message to the youth is that they should not forget the things that set them apart from others and never try to copy others.

The award-winning singer also appeals to parents not to force children to be what they are not, but help them find their talent and develop it.

"God does not duplicate talent. Each one of us needs to find out what their talent is and live for it."

This article was originally published by the Sowetan.


 
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