Oliver "Tuku" Mutukudzi has been called "The Otis Redding of Zimbbawe," a comparison that has always irritated me. Oliver Mutukudzi isn't the Otis Redding of Zimbabwe, he's the Oliver Mutikudzi of Zimbabwe - his music stands on its own, it's unique and incomparable. Moreover, these sort of analogies, well-meaning, often made by publicists and music journalists, seem really ethnocentric, as if American or European music is the baseline against which all other music is defined.
End of rant. Born in 1952, Oliver grew up in Highfield, the historic African "ghetto" of Harare (called Salisbury under Ian Smith's racist Rhodesian regime) and learned to play a homemade instrument from a book called "It's Easy to Play the Guitar." He started singing gospel music and in 1975 joined Thomas Mapfumo in the Wagon Wheels band. By the '80s, as a solo artist, he had acheived massive fame in Zimbabwe, with many best-selling singles and albums and growing popularity across Southern Africa. By the turn of the century, several international releases and tours had made Mutukudzi, along with Mapfumo, one of the two most popular Zimbabwean musicians in the world.
Here is Nzara (Kudzanayi BL 459), a 1983 release that showcases Tuku at the peak of his powers, his soulful voice soaring above inspired arrangements and a variety of styles. Enjoy!
We continue our exploration of the rockin'sounds of '80s-era Zimbabwe with Goodbye Sandra, the second volume of the Zimbabwe Hits series (DiscAfrique AFRILP 05, 1988). In contrast to the first outing in the series, this one features only four artists, but they're all great. Let's go!
We remember John Kazadi from Volume One of Zimbabwe Hits -Take Cover!John was originally from Lubumbashi, Congo, and here covers the lovely song "Le Bucheron" by the Congolese singer Franklin Boukaka. "Evoking the ancestors and those who died for liberation. It's time to enjoy the fruits of freedom and rejoice.":
Many reading this need no introduction to Oliver Mutukudzi. Apart from Thomas Mapfumo, he's probably the best-known Zimbabwean musician in the world, and no wonder - his deep, soulful voice is unparalleled. "Nzara" recounts the hunger and suffering during a drought:
During the Zimbabwe War of Liberation musician Simon Chimbetu fled into exile in Tanzania, where he joined the Zimbabwe African National Union and entertained its troops in exile. Shortly after Independence he joined with his brother Naison to form the Marxist Brothers. The brothers split in 1988, Simon forming the Dendera Kings and Naison forming the Gee 7 Commandos. In "Goodbye Sandra" the singer is bidding adieu to his foreign girlfriend and returning home to Zimbabwe:
The Sungura Boys were the band of John Chibadura (John Nyamukoko). Chibadura was born in 1957. Orphaned at an early age and forced to abandon his schooling, he worked a number of menial jobs before distinguishing himself on the guitar and founding the Holy Brothers with his friend Shepherd Chinyani. After a number of personnel and name changes the group became the Sungura Boys. At some point (either 1983 or 1985) John left to form his own band, the Tembo Brothers. Sadly, John Chibadura died in 1999. "Soweto" is "a song about suffering, pain, hardship and death in the struggle for freedom":
"Tungamira" is about a young friend "who dies without a chance to say goodbye. He is asked to lead the way to heaven (or peace)." I will be posting more music by Oliver Mutukuzi on Likembe in the future:
A sarcastic song about Abel Muzorewa's hapless "Zimbabwe/Rhodesia" regime, which held sway for only a few months before Independence in 1980. "How can a country possess two names?" I will be posting more music by John Chibadura on Likembe in the future:
Download Goodbye Sandra as a zipped file here. Researching this post I found the book Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe by Fred Zindi (Mambo Press, Harare, 1985) very helpful. Descriptions of the songs were provided by the liner notes of Goodbye Sandra.