Oliver Mtukudzi


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In addition to being one of contemporary jazz's top indie labels, Heads Up International has delved brilliantly into the vast riches of African music these past years, bringing masters from that continent to a greater stateside awareness via its Heads Up Africa series. South Africa has gotten most of the attention over the years, but as singer, guitarist, and socially conscious composer Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi shows, Zimbabwe has music equally as compelling, vibrant, and rhythmic. Over the past 25 years, Tuku has been such a force in the musical landscape of the South African region that his name has become synonymous with his style, commonly known as "Tuku music." To the untrained ear, these rollicking guitars and native call-and-response patterns and harmonies may sound a lot like other African styles, but this recording -- whose title is the Zimbabwean word for "carrying bag," that is, a satchel filled with advice, encouragement, and wisdom -- is ripe with his own country's jit style, in addition to South African mbaqanga. While certainly listeners can enjoy the music just as a cool listening experience -- sometimes bright and danceable like "Ninipa," at other times more contemplative and melancholy like "Tiri Mubindu" -- Tuku provides liner notes that explain his universal themes of humility, respect for the environment ("Pindirai"), and of course, the need for "Hope" in a troubled world.

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