Tuku Music

Unlike some places we know, message music in Zimbabwe isn’t the
product of fringe folk singers; it’s the prime directive of the
country’s biggest hits and artists-Thomas Mapfumo, Simon Chimbetu
and, most popular of all, Oliver Mtukudzi, or ‘Tuku,’ as he’s known
to his fans. Teacher, preacher and motivational guitarist, Mtukudzi
brings his influence to bear on a host of topics on his first
American release, from respecting tradition to his nation’s AIDS
scourge to the need to plan for the future. True to form for
Zimbabwean pop, it’s all wrapped in music that sounds the opposite
of the words, with bright, sinewy guitar lines and joyous
call-and-response chants. Tuku worked with Mapfumo in the ’70s, and
you can hear the chimurenga influence-guitars percolating in the
style of the indigenous mbira, or thumb piano, and the roving
elliptical groove. Mtukudzi is more of a soul man, though,
delivering the goods with a distinct gospel/R&B air. Like a
laid-back Teddy Pendergrass, Mtukudzi exhorts gently, and when you
slow down, you get down with this supermelodic set. Tuku Music is a
much overdue introduction to one of the giants of African pop. What
took so long? Putumayo Artists.

FromEscape(October,
1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255,
Escondido, CA 92046.

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