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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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Tuku’s career has spanned thirty four years and he has composed 50 original albums (nearly all of them best-sellers). But it is his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe – continually playing to enthusiastic audiences in even the remotest parts of the country – that has earned him the place in people’s hearts that he holds today.
‘Tuku’, nicknamed by his fans, was inittated into the world of professional music in 1977 when he joined the now legendary Wagon Wheels which also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Success came to them early – the first single they recorded together, Dzandimomotera, rapidly went gold. This was followed by Tuku’s first album, recorded on four-track, which was also a smash hit. Some of the musicians from the Wagon Wheels line-up worked with Tuku to create the Black Spirits, the name of the band that has performed with him throughout most of his career save for a two year period towards the end of the eighties, when he performed with the Zig Zag Band.
With Zimbabwean Independence in 1980, Tuku and the Black Spirits produced Africa, one of the most important albums of its time, and with the two hits it spawned, Zimbabwe and Mazongonyedze, the fledgling country founded one of its first great voices. From Independence to 1997, Mtukudzi released two albums every year, establishing himself as a producer, an arranger, a prolific song-writer and, with his famous “big voice”, a formidable lead singer.
Tuku tours the world extensively and has played across Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and
the USA. (extracted from www.tukumusic.com)
I got to know Chaz Maviyane-Davies in the mid-nineties when I was with Media for Development Trust, an NGO involved in the making for films for development. We hit off just like that and spent many hours talking about anything under the sun but mostly books, films and politics. We were also both so much into Oliver Mtukudzi’s music and I think we made our fair contribution to Tuku’s bank account.
Then as now, Chaz was driven by a sense of outrage at injustice. Whether that injustice was at the level of the working person, or at national or global levels, he felt it deeply. In 2000 Chaz had to leave Zimbabwe – as he headed for the US, I was heading for South Africa. Our country had changed fundamentally – for the worse. Years later, I look back at Chaz’s corpus of work and I am struck by that same sense of commitment to a free Zimbabwe and a free world. From his seminal 15-minute film, After the Wax, to his latest graphical work, Chaz’s meta-theme remains FREEDOM – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from torture, freedom from hunger – freedom to be free! “Creative defiance” is what he terms the motivation in his work.
A week ago I asked Chaz if I could re-publish a selected number of his graphic images and he readily agreed. For that I am most grateful. The graphic images span the period of 2000-2007 and they were created mostly in response to the violent Zimbabwean elections of 2000, 2002 and 2008. Please see more of Chaz’s work on his website (www.maviyane.com).
In the post below Chaz’s work…
Chris Kabwato (email@example.com)
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This week the African leaders are meeting in Cairo. The group meeting is a mixture of democrats, dictators, thieves and murderers. Be assured there will be no police officers to arrest any of them for their crimes.
But of course the “new” kid on the block will be Robert Mugabe – inaugurated with such indecent haste after an equally indecent “election”. Only in Africa.
As our tinpot dictators meet in Cairo it is a very confusing Africa at this moment. We have just come out of the era of the Big Man in politics and seem to be headed in the direction of ritualised democracy (regular elections, some free media, an incorruptible judge here and there) elsewhere. But we seem to be a continent that has arrived at the bus stop just as the democracy and development coach was pulling off. Do we do a dash for the bus and wave to the driver to stop for us? Will she see us? Will the passengers holler at the driver to step on the brakes and let us in? Africa always seems to veer from hope to despair but the periods of hope are never long. When Kwame Nkrumah blazed on the scene with his “Seek ye the political kingdom first”, I can imagine the excitement of his generation. The energy reverberated across the seas to the civil rights movement in the United States. Every birth represents a possibility. The possibility of something new and incredible. And so the birth our post-colonial nations painful as they were represented a terrible beauty. Beauty born out of the ugliness of anti-colonial wars. But soon the dream became a nightmare. Across
the continent the Nation Fathers started behaving like that wayward uncle that was prone to abuse nieces and nephews.
Like founding company directors, the Fathers thought they owned 100% of this entity called the country and all citizens were workers. But at times they treated that entity like a plantation. And they started also to behave badly. Like the Enron executives they dipped their fingers in the till and inflated figures on the GNH (Gross National Happiness) of their people. So Mobutu Sese Seko, of the then Zaire, could brazenly reject charges of running a kleptocracy with “I only have 43 million dollars and what is that for a president?” The young one of a snake is snake. So we get to learn how to share the national cake. If the president says he needs 2 million dollars for his trip to Geneva, the Finance Minister tells the Reserve Bank Governor the president needs 4 million and by the time the instruction gets to the senior clerk the figure is
a nice round 15 million. You eat, I eat.
Then a new wave sweeps across the Motherland – one-party states are pushed off the catwalk. The evil empire crumbles under the glare of glasnost and perestroika (sounds like wine and vodka). Democracy seems to be mushrooming across Africa – the founding fathers and their parties are swept away by a new tide. Hope rises. But same old faces reappear in the cabinets. In other places wars break out. Coriolanus, Shakespeare’s eponymous hero, would have been proud of the way we swat each other like flies. In the midst of the darkness behold the miracle of an old man stepping into the light after 27 years. He speaks peace, love and forgiveness. He could walk on water if he wanted to. We rush to Italy to borrow Florentine terms like “renaissance”. Aah to behold the rebirth of ourselves. To defy Nicodemus and actually be born again. The ecstasy. The conferences. The institutes. The crap on radio talkshows. Before you can say “Du Bois”, renaissance has become a tattered dress barely covering the essentials. A decade into the new millennium the Renaissance Man reluctantly saddles his horse, puffs at his pipe and takes a swig at his whisky flask and heads into the obscurity of history. What hope now lies in the rainbow nation? This is the recurring nightmare of Africa. “Not waving but drowning”, as poet Stevie Smith wrote in a very different context.
How the African Union deals with Zimbabwe will determine how fast we get to a truly free and democratic Zimbabwe. I remain hopeful that the bus will return and pick us up. At times all you can do is hope.
Note: The photos below do not have captions. You know the Zimbabwe story very well. These pictures capture the tragic charade that our country is going through.
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