To usher in spring, Zimbabwean jazz legend, Oliver Mtukudzi will perform at the Botswana Craft on the 11th of September alongside local artist Sharon Sibonge. Having performed in Gaborone a number of times before, one would expect Batswana to have had enough of him, but no, every time ‘Tuku’, as he is passionately known, comes to town all else stops, the Botswana Craft’s courtyard gets filled to the brim and this comes as no surprise. When he started out in the 1970s, it was not clear that Mtukudzi would become a musical icon and his discography would exceed 60 albums. With notes as smooth as a waterfall, Mtukudzi demeanour just captivates even the most discerning of music critics, and that is why he has won the hearts of many Batswana music lovers and they seem never to get enough of him.
Mtukudzi, a self-taught guitarist, started out with a Salisbury band called Wagon Wheels. His sings in his native Shona, and to say the man has a rich command of the language is an understatement. His sound has a lot of Northern Zimbabwean influence. It borrows a lot from the Mbira, a traditional instrument, and this instrument has defined the pace and energy of Mtukudzi’s performance. Also dominant in Mtukudzi’s sound are drumming patterns popular in the north of Zimbabwe such as Dandanda and Katekwe, very similar to South Africa’s Mbaqanga, known in Zimbabwe as Simanje-manje. All this, laid over with rich poetic lyrics which are peppered with a lot of idioms, define mtukudzi’s music. Mtukudzi has created a whole sub-genre all of his own, aptly dubbed ‘Tuku music’ by his fans from all over the world.
“Oliver is an amazing performer and the people love him and luckily we have a special relationship with him. He first performed in Botswana Craft in 2009 with his late son, Sam along with Steve Dyer and his son Bokani Dyer. Since then we have had him perform for us and it is always something to look forward to,” said Oliver Groth, director of Botswana Craft. He added, “When we started our partnership with Mascom Live Sessions, the whole idea was to develop local artists and give them an opportunity to perform on a bigger platform so in every session we try to include a promising or established local act and this time we decided to give Sharon Sibonge a platform to show Batswana what she is capable of.” Groth revealed that they observed that when the lineup is all locals, people rarely come to support but when there is a foreign act people come in large numbers and they have decided to use that to the benefit of local artists.
Sharon was one of the most popular and idolized contestants in the My Star singing competition, which she won in 2012. Jazz is no new genre to her as she has previously backed up local jazz giant, Banjo Mosele. As to whether she can stand her own next to Mtukudzi remains to be seen.