Mtukudzi tackles social ills head-on

Oliver Mtukudzi has releasd his 67th album./ Veli Nhlapo
Oliver Mtukudzi has releasd his 67th album./ Veli Nhlapo

There are reasons to consider the 2018 release of Hany'ga (Concern) as an important one for legendary musician Oliver Mtukudzi.

It is his 67th album at the age of 65, and it was released just a week after losing his close friend Hugh Masekela.

Mtukudzi speaks to Time Out just two days after Masekela's death.

Since the two were working on a collaborative album, it was a big blow for the Zimbabwean. His emotions and hurt are etched in his face.

Tuku, as he is affectionately known has been in the music industry for more than 43 years and still shows unbridled enthusiasm towards his craft as if he began yesterday.

As he churns out hit after hit, Mtukudzi continues to tell his music story while educating at the same time. He defines his music as a mixture of different music styles from Zimbabwe.

The international star's latest album is inspired by people who compete with each other.

"Everyone wants to be better than the other, and that is a concern. This has made us lose focus on important things.

"I ask myself if it's what God created us for? We have to complement each other," he says.

The offering Mtukudzi defines as a milestone, is packed with special songs that were created to touch and inspire. All songs in the album address the issue of competition in different ways.

The album opens with Matope, a vibey song that carries Tuku's signature style. He says the song tackles the issue of environment. The singer poses a serious question about who must be blamed for the environmental issues that the world faces today.

Mtukudzi says education around environmental issues was adequate though black people still choose to ignore it.

In the album he has worked with young artists from his art centre called Pakare Paye in Norton, west of Harare.

"This is what I have always wanted to do - contributing to the development of the arts. Some of the young people involve in the album are vocalists while others are instrumentalists," he says.

While many modern musicians shy away from tackling the social issues, Mtukudzi narrates human struggles in his music. He is known for delivering passionate sounds combined with thoughtful and well-constructed compositions.

"A song needs to touch the man on the street. You have to give him hope. You need to understand the purpose of the song. Sales are just a sign of appreciation for a job well done by music fans," he says.

A perfectionist of note, having finished the album in June 2017, Mtukudzi says he took the six months after completion to ensure that it came out the way he envisaged it.

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