The King of Afro Jazz

By Vanessa Chivhere-Bosman

The new album by Africa’s finest is set to keep your ears glued to his music!

With his husky voice, he has become the most recognized voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond. At 60 years of age, Oliver Mtukudzi (known as ‘Tuku’ by his large fan base) has over 22 awards to his name, including the prestigious KORA award, Reel Award and MTN SAMA award. However, he has more in store for his fans with the release of his new album titled Sarawoga.

Released on 21 September 2012, the album coincided with the artist’s 60th birthday, making it his 61st album to date. Sarawoga laments the losses that Tuku has had to endure in his life, not least the loss of life. In his mother language Shona, ‘sarawoga’ means to be left alone and the artist illustrates how he has been left alone in a sense. The album is comprised of twelve tracks that paint a picture of the legend’s life over the years. The tracks are dominantly sung in Shona, however, there is a mixture of the English and Ndebele languages. In this album, he continues to incorporate elements of different musical traditions such as Zambian and Tanzanian instrumentals. Generally, the album illustrates the struggles Tuku has been through in his life from failing in his acting career, having difficulties in relationships, losing loved ones and the death of his son.

A track that has garnered the most recognition and appraisal is titled Hazvireve. The song explores the hardships of teenage pregnancies, however, with a twist – the song is sung from the teenage father’s perspective. It is set at a future time where the father is apologising to the child for not being a part of the child’s life as he was denied custody or access to the child as he could not afford to marry his sweetheart. The song strikes a chord as this is an issue hardly explored. The reality that young men also go through psychological, spiritual and emotional issues as a result of a teenage pregnancy is illustrated through Tuku’s illustration.

Other notable tracks on the album are Bvuma (Wasakara) and Ndakuvara. Although Tuku has not admitted to their political connection, the tracks have been interpreted as subliminal messages to Robert Mugabe’s political reign. The former refers to the acceptance of age. When listening to it, one cannot help but think of the 32-year reign by Zimbabwe’s president as the lyrics refer to individuals having to accept that they are old and must let the next generation take over. The latter refers to a man getting injured while bringing in cattle from herding. However, there seems to be a hidden message to the political violence that takes place during Zimbabwean election time.

Although these two tracks have caused considerable controversy, the album has received (good reviews) from the general public. As a Zimbabwean-born journalism student, this album illustrates the timelessness of the legend that is Tuku as his distinctive music style continues to gain recognition worldwide. Despite this, his music offers subjective perspectives to life on issues such as HIV/AIDS, suicide, teenage pregnancy and polygamy.

“As long as mankind exists there is always something to talk about, and as long as there is something to talk about there is something to sing about and so I shall sing always.” These words from Tuku illustrate that there is still more to come from the King of Afro-Jazz.

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