Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

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.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 2

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Extra Pop

Assembly’s pop-up space goes into regular rotation, Cabrillo wine dinner, and a visit to Mozaic


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


Gary’s Old Fashioned Snappy Dogs

Where to find the best hot dogs in Santa Cruz