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Redemption Songs

music OliverMPressOliver Mtukudzi honors the Zimbabwean heritage with sounds of struggle, hope and celebration

According to Oliver Mtukudzi (pronounced tu-ku-zee), “The power of art is to communicate figuratively and be understood universally.” That message is a key component in his distinctive Afro-pop/World music amalgam, often referred to as “Tuku music.”

A musical icon in his native Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi will bring elements of the African musical tradition, the stories of his people, and songs from his 57-album repertoire to Moe’s Alley this Friday.

“In the 1970s, I was one of the few who were able to have access to a secondary education,” says Mtukudzi. “Well, after I graduated I still couldn’t find work because I was black (due to the Rhodesian colonial regime). So I began to play my guitar more. I had been singing and writing music since I was 4 and a half years old.”

In 1973, Mtukudzi formed the Wagon Wheels alongside famed Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo. But two years later, Mtukudzi embarked on his solo musical career with the help of a backing band made up of young musicians from the neighboring ghettoes of Harare, Zimbabwe, whom he named the Black Spirits.

Currently in the studio recording their next album, Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits have continued their time-honored tradition of incorporating South African instruments into their sound—including mbira, mbaqanga, jit and korekore drumming. By using traditional instruments, the band is able to create a new wave of African folk that pays tribute to its heritage. “The youth of Africa and the world must come to know that our instruments are not inferior,” he says. “The drum set, the guitar and banjo … so many instruments that are used today come straight from Africa.”

Despite pressure to switch from his Zimbabwean language of Shona to English, Mtukudzi has recorded all of his albums in his native tongue.

“I wasn’t afraid of anyone,” he says. “The beauty of Shona is all of its rich idioms and metaphor … and the beauty of art is that you can use the power of language to create meaning without necessarily giving it away. So, I used the beauty of Shona to communicate in my own way, and people got the message.”

Within his lyrics, Mtukudzi tackles important issues like child homelessness—which he actually wrote and directed a musical about—female empowerment, and HIV/AIDS.

Though his music was born in a time of apartheid and war, out of the ashes of oppression, Mtukudzi’s hopeful lyrics and message of a better tomorrow united people.

“Self-discipline has always been the backbone of my message and music,” he says. “It will take you anywhere. It also eliminates any conflict in the relationship that musicians find with their music.”


Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits play at 9 p.m. Friday, July 20 at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18/adv, $20/door. For more information, call 479-1854.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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