TUKU MAGIC EhekaNhaiYahwe

Why won’t make it onto top of the music shelf

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/feature - Robert Mukondiwa

IT’S an as­sess­ment that some peo­ple have made. An ar­gu­ment. They say that Oliver Mtukudzi, like wine, gets bet­ter with age.

It’s a wrong as­sess­ment. Es­pe­cially if you lis­ten to his lat­est al­bum Eheka! Nhai Yahwe (En­joy, My Dear Friend). It’s per­haps much more ap­pro­pri­ate to say WINE, like Oliver Mtukudzi, gets bet­ter with age!

It is a very scary feel­ing. Fright­en­ing. Creepy. Chill­ing. How does a man cre­ate some­thing that per­fect? Near-fault­less? Flaw­less?

Is it even con­sti­tu­tional? Al­lowed? Le­gal? But Oliver does it any­way. And we have come to ex­pect it of him.

The al­bum, a 12 track re­lease is Oliver’s 65th al­bum.

And there’s a sad feel­ing one gets when you lis­ten to it be­cause it feels like Oliver isn’t go­ing to re­lease any more al­bums af­ter this. It’s too per­fect, too crisp and too undy­ing that one can’t pos­si­bly have any more ge­nius in him to cre­ate an­other sim­i­lar mas­ter­piece. Or can he?

It has a dis­tinctly aged and ma­ture feel to it, be­ing more of a serv­ing for the ma­ture ear than the friv­o­lous wet-be­hind-the-ears music con­nois­seur.

The track Chori Ne­vamwe may prove to be the up-tempo track that peo­ple will fall in love with. It’s sig­nif­i­cant in a mil­lion ways. In it, Tuku cel­e­brates like he has not done be­fore since March 15 of 2009 when he lost his only son Sam Mtukudzi. In it one can feel the Tuku Music mourn­ing blan­ket has been ripped off. For the first time in his post 2009 music, one can hear Tuku’s voice tear through the in­stru­men­ta­tion run­ning un­bri­dled like a wild horse.

There seem to be cer­tain sec­tions of his lungs and vo­cal chords that had been shut down for the five years of mourn­ing that have been re-opened for cel­e­bra­tion and busi­ness. Tuku can laugh again. Those crevices of his lungs that had be­come coy have a sud­den light in them again. And that’s what his late son would like to see of him. A happy Tuku.

One imag­ines a cel­e­bra­tory mood in his Pakasimbwi ru­ral home, where he in­vites peo­ple to come and par­take of the party. Of the merry mak­ing and feast­ing. His mates —anaYahwe, should come and en­joy with him. It is Tuku at his fresh height.

In Bhiza Ra­mambo, Tuku brings a per­cus­sion gal­lop feel of con­quest and mil­i­tary ban­ner-men to his mes­sage. When you are down and out, kneel down and say a prayer, he im­plores the lis­tener. A prayer is like Bhiza Ra­mambo, the king’s horse. A stal­lion that will help you gal­lop to heav­enly sooth­ing from the ul­ti­mate great physi­cian — God — who will heal your suf­fer­ing. It sounds like a bat­tle vic­tory scene out of Games of Thrones. And the horns by leg­endary trum­peter bra Hugh Masekela help ce­ment the bat­tle hymn of the Repub­lic na­ture of heav­enly horns. Masekela brings that wiz­ardry on the track Kusateer­era as well! The trum­peter, flugel­hor­nist and cor­netist is at his very best on the al­bum.

And in Ndinecha, that cough is back. And so is a laugh which is play­ful in Dzivirira, a song about safety of work­ers in the work­place. The joy in him is pal­pa­ble.

He un­leashes the in­stru­ment he has swal­lowed, that gritty voice-box, on sev­eral in­stances in this al­bum, let­ting his voice have a heart of its own.

He is thank­ful too. “Thank you for wish­ing me well and pray­ing for me. God bless and pro­tect you”, he sings in the track Ndinecha. What is a Tuku al­bum with­out a bit of calm med­i­ta­tion to the Di­vine af­ter all?

Over­all the al­bum is a lyri­cal di­dac­tic trip down the in­tel­lec­tual ge­nius of a philo­soph­i­cal pen-master that is Oliver Mtukudzi.

But a sad hard truth is that ow­ing to the beauty of the mild tempo through­out most of the ef­fort, few of these songs have the stamina and en­ergy to make it onto Tuku’s live show reper­toire for the mass mar­ket. It is a ge­nius more for the laid back lis­tener. The cleav­age he ex­poses into his words is enough to give the bril­liant mind an orgasm with­out any phys­i­cal­ity.

Yet Pa­bodzi (To­gether) may be a great track for the dance el­e­ment. Don’t com­pete with me. I’m a master of my trade and a master at my tal­ent. I have my gift and you have your gift he sings in Pa­bodzi. It’s prob­a­bly a fit­ting mes­sage to the youth cre­at­ing bub­blegum music and try­ing to equal or ‘beat’ Tuku. “Calm down, we are dif­fer­ent,” he tells the com­pe­ti­tion. We can all make it in the same space. Life is not a com­pe­ti­tion. He truly is inim­itable. The track is ac­com­pa­nied by a per­cus­sive trance in­duced by the tra­di­tional Katekwe hide skin African drum which sweet­ens the mad­ness of a mag­i­cal dance­able track and master by Chinem­biri Chi­dodo.

The back­ing vo­cals aren’t the tra­di­tional strong Tuku voices we have grown ac­cus­tomed to and of­ten pale in the shadow of Tuku’s voice, which could annoy, but the beauty is that it makes the ef­fort a truly Tuku al­bum be­cause his voice and its nu­ances then loom large. Colos­sal even.

But he strays a bit from tra­di­tional Tuku ter­ri­tory by de­plor­ing slav­ery openly in Hun­hapwa (Slav­ery). In this case, he talks of the pre­vail­ing so­cial and eco­nomic slav­ery in­duced by un­fair labour and so­cio-po­lit­i­cal prac­tices and sys­tems.

Those in power say ‘ work for me and my chil­dren while your scrawny lit­tle ones linger at the pe­riph­ery, at the fringes, starv­ing and naked’, he says. When will this end he begs. It’s a ques­tion many in Zim­babwe find them­selves ask­ing as they work for an un­feel­ing op­pres­sive elite. And the song cries along with him.

Masanga Bodo — not a co­in­ci­dence, a track with his wife Daisy has made waves, but it was a labour of love for Tuku, hav­ing started work on that track over three years ago, which shows that the m an cre­ates qual­ity not just songs to add onto an al­bum. That is why his music has stood the test of time. Which ex­plains why this al­bum is sprinkled with re­touched oldies, Dzikama Wakura (Pss-Pss Hello), Tamba Tamba Chidembo and Hadzi­vake. In Masanga Bodo, Tuku says every­thing is pre­des­tined. It is not by co­in­ci­dence that we are who we are, born where we were or born into our totems — nzou, ele­phant for ex­am­ple. In this al­bum, the ele­phant has re­gained his voice. Stand­ing large and im­pos­ing on his rear legs, Tuku wheezes then ex­plodes into a loud Bull Ele­phant’s trum­pet. This could have passed for the top of ev­ery music rack . . . ex­cept the top is not high enough! — @zim­rob­bie

Pic­tures by Nqo Video Pro­duc­tions Oliver Mtukudzi

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