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Oliver Mtukudzi
NHAVA
(Heads Up)
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Whereas his Zimbabwean pop-veteran peer Thomas Mapfumo has decamped to Oregon to launch musical arrows at a corroded and corrupt regime, Oliver Mtukudzi — "Tuku" to his fans — remains in Zimbabwe, with all the challenges, perils, and opportunities that entails. This set of 12 punchy pop folksongs was recorded at his home studio outside Harare. Powerful melodies grace the guitar-shimmered 12/8 grooves on "Ninipa," "Tiregerereiwo," and "Handiro Dambudziko." Vocal harmonies reminiscent of South African gospel work well on "Hope" and the prayerful "Dzidziso." And Tuku’s husky tenor blends gruff melancholy with reassuring soul. He is the big-brotherly adviser, counseling unity, faith, humility, and responsible parenting. In the face of Zimbabwe’s dramatic social, economic, and political implosion, these songs might be accused of avoiding the elephant in the room. But perhaps there’s a whiff of rebellion in his plea to diagnose illness and not just treat the symptoms, or his celebration of the rise of a new leader in the family on the rootsy "Dzokai," one of the album’s most rousing numbers.

(Oliver Mtukudzi performs this Saturday, June 11, at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square; call 617-876-4275.)

BY BANNING EYRE


Issue Date: June 10 - 16, 2005
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