“Tuku” Mtukudzi is arguably the most powerful creative force to
emerge from Zimbabwe in the last three decades. Carefully balancing
compelling rhythms and accessible melodies with insightful lyrics, Tuku
has built a vast body of work that is politically and socially relevant,
yet entertaining and accessible to a worldwide audience. Throughout a
career that spans more than 45 recordings and virtually every corner of
the globe, he has remained committed to the live music scene of his
homeland, where he and his band, The Black Spirits, continually play to
enthusiastic audiences in even the most remote regions.
response to Mtukudzi’s music has been glowing. Parade
called him “one of the few genuine innovators of the Zimbabwean music
scene,” while Prize Beat in
his native country proclaimed that his music “has been instrumental in
strengthening our freedom, socially, politically and economically.”
American blues/country/roots artist Bonnie Raitt has referred to him as
a cross between soul shouter Otis Redding and reggae legend Toots
makes his debut on the Heads Up label with the worldwide release of Nhava on April 26, 2005. “Nhava” is the Zimbabwean word for
“carrying bag.” Mtukudzi says the new album is a satchel filled with
nuggets of advice, encouragement and wisdom for travelers on the journey
of life as they make their way through an often perilous world.
on September 22, 1952, Mtukudzi learned the importance of social and
economic responsibility early in life as the oldest of seven children
whose father died prematurely. He got his first taste of pop music
success with the 1975 release of his debut single “Stop Before Go.”
Two years later, he joined the Wagon Wheels, a group that featured
Thomas Mapfumo. “Dzandimomotera,” his first single with the band,
quickly went gold, but Tuku left the band shortly thereafter to pursue a
solo career, taking several members of the Wagon Wheels with him and
forming the Black Spirits. Their 1979 debut album, Dzandimomotera,
also went gold on the fast track.
Zimbabwe declaring independence in 1980, Tuku and the Black Spirits
released Africa, one of the
most important albums of its time. With the album’s two hit singles,
“Zimbabwe” and “Mazongonyedze,” the spirit of the fledgling
nation was suddenly personified in a single powerful voice. For the next
seventeen years, Mtukudzi would maintain a rigorous recording schedule
that yielded two albums every year – a feat that cemented his
reputation as a prolific songwriter, a highly skilled producer/arranger
and a formidable lead singer. A quarter century after his earliest
successes with the Black Spirits, he continues to showcase all of these
talents and more in live performances that have captivated audiences not
just in his homeland but worldwide.
has become such a force in the musical landscape of South Africa that
his name has become synonymous with his style, and “Tuku music” has
evolved into something quite distinct from any other Zimbabwean music.
Clearly, his cultural influences are evident – the traditional forms
of the mbira, the South African mbaqanga style, and the popular
Zimbabwean music style called jiti, are all evident in his sound – but
these have been distilled into an aesthetic that is now very much his
ascended to a new level of worldwide exposure with the 1998 release of
Tuku Music, an album
distributed by various labels in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Europe, UK, North
America, Australia and Asia. The album spurred a string of dates in the
U.S. and Canada with Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate and Baaba Maal, as
part of the Africa Fete tour. He followed up with Paipevo,
which reached the top of the Zimbabwe music charts within a week of its
release in November 1999.
comes to the Heads Up label with an optimism that is evident in the
twelve rhythmic and engaging tracks on Nhava.
“Every song on this album has something to teach about life, something
to remind you and encourage you about what is important in life,” he
says. “All of these ideas are universal. They are the same for every
human being, regardless of their culture or their environment.”
In addition to compiling a vast musical catalog over the past three decades, Mtukudzi has branched out into other areas of creative expression, including film and theater. He participated in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music during the ‘80s, including the BBC’s Under the African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira. In 1990, he played the leading role in Jit, the first film featuring an all-Zimbabwean cast, and a year later played a prominent role in Neria, a drama dealing with the complex issue of women’s rights in a chauvinist culture (he also composed and arranged the Neria soundtrack). He also wrote and directed the musical production Was My Child (Plight of the Street Children) in the mid ‘90s. In the past few years, he has contributed music to more than twenty AIDS-related documentaries that have screened worldwide.
© Heads Up Records