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World Music CD Reviews Africa


By Michael Stone
Published September 27, 2005

Heads Up

A spellbinding performer, Zimbabwean singer, guitarist, songwriter and bandleader, Oliver Mtukudzi sings with the passionate entreaty of a visionary prophet, and Nhava (a Zimbabwean carrying bag) offers a dozen nuggets of universal advice, insights forged from the challenges, sufferings and hopes that characterize everyday life throughout Southern Africa. Mtukudzi’s upbeat, sonically textured, eminently danceable music grapples with the challenge of living a life of humility and spiritual enlightenment (“Ninipa”), calls to the wisdom of cultural elders against the senseless human destruction of the natural environment (“Pindirai”), praises the power of community (“Menzva Kudzimba”), addresses the tensions between parents and children (“Hazvireve,” “Tozeza”), mourns the adverse effects on family life of the migrant labor (“Izere Mhepo”), endorses the value of hard work (“Hope”), pays homage to the ancestors (“Dzokai,” “Tiri Mubindu”) and makes an impassioned plea for gratitude, with prayers for divine intervention against the suffering caused by pride, selfishness and the fleeting character of human existence (“Dzidziso,” “Tiregerereiwo”). Throughout, Nhava embodies Mtukudzi’s deeply felt, percussively dense, sweetly harmonious musical trademark, with a message of inspiration that cuts across every cultural divide.