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World Music CD Reviews Africa


Published June 4, 2006

The Tuku Years: His Greatest Hits (1998-2002)
Tuku Music/Sheer Sound

Guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi’s rhythms and expertly picked guitars lines have long held sway in his native Zimbabwe. After 20 years, Tuku (as he is affectionately known) found some of the worldwide success of countryman Thomas Mapfumo with Tuku Music, released stateside by Putumayo in 1999. On that album he plays the rhythms of his country and region, including chimurenga (Mapfumo’s specialty), South African mbaqanga, Zimbabwean jit and korekore, the tradition drumming of Mtukudzi’s clan, giving short shrift to none even as he expands Tuku music. While The Tuku Years covers only the last five of Mtukudzi’s career—Shanda, a collection paying tribute to Tuku’s career, reaches back to 1976—the compilation does capture some of the spirit of this tireless performer. A prolific songwriter, Tuku explores subjects new and old: the touching “Mabasa” mourns the devastation left by AIDS; the uptempo “Wasakara” calls for respect of young and old; “Ndakuvara” asks that one take nothing for granted. The Tuku Years merely hints his spirit, but it’s as good an introduction as any to this songwriter’s impressive output.