Oliver Mtukudzi


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Oliver Mtukudzi's star has risen high in the west, due in part to the passionate advocacy of famous stateside admirers like Bonnie Raitt. This second domestically released overview of the Zimbabwean singer/songwriter's work confirms that he is a confident tunesmith who fashions diverse Southern African sources, bright-toned gospel, and Tin Pan Alley adroitness into merrily melodic, easily approachable pop fables. He speaks of the importance of maintaining one's cultural identity, wonders why God permits the innocent to suffer and the lazy to flourish, disputes unfair inheritance customs, and encourages people to respect one another. Known familiarly as Tuku, Mtukudzi's agreeably gruff voice and tender-toned amplified acoustic guitar are deployed with grace and tact, leading the other players but never overwhelming the delicately calibrated chemistry of the instrumental forces or drowning out the female backup choir. His sound remains serenely optimistic despite the seriousness of his subject matter, much as his countrymen sing like angels as they deal with poverty, hunger, and the tragic ubiquity of AIDS in Zimbabwe, which is fast creating a nation populated by orphans and the elderly. Fans of Paul Simon's Graceland, the Earthworks Indestructible Beat series, mbaqanga-based South African artists like Miriam Makeba, Johnny Clegg, or the Soul Brothers and the Bhundu Boys, a much-mourned Zimbawean guitar band, will find a lot to like here.

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