Zimbabwe's declining economy
has meant trouble for some of the country's musicians. Consumers have less money to pay to go to
concerts or buy CD's. But a few
musicians, like Oliver Mtukudzi, are able to thrive with a sizeable audience
outside Zimbabwe. Voice of America
English to Africa Service reporter Unathi Kondile in Cape Town, South Africa,
recently spoke to the Zimbabwean performer.
With rising inflation and the
increasing cost of basic commodities, many music fans have to decide whether
they should use their money to buy a concert ticket – or food. Musician Oliver Mtukudzi says
he's felt the pinch:
"It's not like as an artist
you live in your own world. You are living under the same conditions as
everybody – every Zimbabwean. So it affects me, yes -- economically you'll find
that it's tough. There's no fuel. Fans can't come to you. At times you can't
even go and perform because you don't have fuel. You know?"
On the other hand, Mtudkudzi
has plenty of fans spread across the continent.
He describes himself not as a Zimbabwean, but as an African
born in Zimbabwe. He's still there
today, living in Norton, which is 45 kilometers from Harare. He started making music at a very early age,
with his first recording in 1975. So
far he's recorded nearly 60 albums:
"I started off writing music
for choirs until I bought my first guitar and I recorded a duet with my sister.
That's how I started. It was tough, because there was no equipment, there were
no facilities. And places to perform –
there were very few. Anyway an artist's
life is not easy at all," he says.
In 1977, he started out in a
group called The Wagon Wheels where he performed with one of Zimbabwe's
greatest liberation struggle superstars - Thomas Mapfumo. Mtukudzi adopted Mapfumo's 1970's liberation
struggle or Chimurenga style which was about political consciousness during
white minority rule in Zimbabwe.
Mtukudzi later formed his own
band, the Black Spirits, who have backed him throughout his career. He developed his own style known as Tuku Music
because of it's distinctive sound and ability to incorporate the Zimbabwe jit - a rhythmic, electronic guitar-driven pop
music -- and the mbira – sometimes called the "thumb piano."
Mtukudzi's latest album is
titled Tsimba Itsoka, which means "There is No Footprint Without the
Foot." His comment on the album, "The message behind it is, we leave prints
as we live. We leave something for people to emulate or disregard as we move on
in our lives. "
He has performed in a number
of countries in Africa and in Europe and has done some 22 concerts in the
United States. The reception from audiences has always been good – in fact; he
calls them "surprisingly excellent" considering the fact that he performs most
of his songs in Shona and Ndebele, "It brings originality from me. You go out
there, people want to listen to you and they know you are Zimbabwean – so they
want to listen to Zimbabwean music. And the best way to do that is through
Mtudkudzi also recently
launched a DVD that features highlights of his musical career. It's called Wonai – which means "You Should
Mtukudzi recently opened
the doors to his Pakare Paye Arts Center in Zimbabwe. Admission is free, in the hopes that the center will help
young artists hone their skills. The
school includes courses in dance, music, drama, and poetry.