Oliver Mtukudzi, affectionately known as, Tuku, is a Zimbabwean guitar player and singer, born in 1952. He’s made over fifty albums, some by himself and some with his band, The Black Spirits. I just saw that he is playing on Saturday night in Olympia, WA, at the Urban Onion Lounge. That’s where I’d like to be.
He is a Zimbabwean musical hero, a member of the KoreKore tribe and sings mostly in the Shona language. They have words like, kutererera, which means to listen, yimba is sing, sarawoga means to be left alone, and kudzoka is to come back. Mweya means spirit and tractor is tirakita. His totem is the elephant.
He started out in 1977 playing in a band with Thomas Mapfumo, a fellow Zimbabwean, who is and was very political, and who, years and lots of harassment later, ended up living in Portland. Tuku lives in Zimbabwe, when not touring. Urban Onions? Portland? Zimbabwe? Africa? What the heck?
Tuku is not as political as Mapfumo, but political in his own way. Beyond that, he is tender, melodic, inspiring, and rhythmic. This is music for living, for dancing, for doing the dishes, for feeling the breeze, or for watching the clouds. The globe isn’t shrinking, but we are now able to hear around it to the other side. Every time I listen, I realize that everyone is singing and everyone has the same feelings of love, sadness, grief, and happiness, no matter what the language is.