Two weeks ago the great Oliver Mtukudzi (Tuku to his fans) performed at the National Arts Festival (www.nationalartsfestival.co.za), Grahamstown, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Grahamstown’s claim to fame is Rhodes University and the fact that this little pseudo-Victorian village was the site of titanic wars between the Xhosa and the English settlers. But Tuku had come to town to do something else other than fighting.
Tuku and his son, Sam, wowed the capacity crowds with a mix of old and new songs. Sam opened the concert with two solo numbers from his debut album, Rume Rimwe, and had the crowd chanting “Like father like son”. The multi-talented Sam played both the saxophone and the guitar and also showed that he can do some fancy moves of his own. But the show was really about his father whom he introduced, tongue-in-cheek, as “my brother, my friend and, because she is not here, my mum”.
When the Man came on stage you could feel the electricity in the air and, the showman that he is, he did not
disappoint. For a market that is difficult for African musicians to penetrate, Tuku has conquered South Africa pretty much the way he has done the whole world. But it was the Tuku I got to meet outside of the concert that impressed me the most. This was my second meeting with Tuku – the first meeting being in Nairobi at the World Social Forum in 2007. At that event i took lots of photos and some are published here.
When Tuku came to Grahamstown we invited him home with his group, and we spent a lovely afternoon chatting and, of course, had the obligatory sadza and meat. Tuku generously allowed me to record his show on video and we also spent time with him and the group backstage. The qualities that come from Tuku are unmistakable – he is a good listener, he is a warm person, he laughs a lot and he is humility personified. I think it is these qualities which inform his music and his stage persona – deep concern for society and the belief that music can change the world. This issue is a tribute to this great person, a great patriot. (Check Tuku’s website – www.tukumusic.com)
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