Gifted with a deep, gutsy voice and a talent for writing songs that reflect on the daily life and struggles of the people of his homeland, Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is one of Zimbabwe's greatest artists. His blending of Southern African music traditions, including mbira, mbaqanga, jit, and the traditional drumming styles of the Korekore, has created such a unique sound that it has been respectfully dubbed "Tuku music." While Parade referred to Mtukudzi as "one of the few genuine innovators on the Zimbabwean music scene," Prize Beat proclaimed that "his music has been instrumental in strengthening our freedom, socially, politically, and economically." Bonnie Raitt, who has recorded several of his songs, explained, "The juxtaposition of what Mtukudzi sings about and his raw, imploring, vocal reminds me of Otis Redding, Toots Hibbert, and some of my favorite reggae, an odd pairing of agonizing, thorny lyrics over basically lighthearted music." Mtukudzi released his debut single, "Stop After Orange," in 1975. Two years later, he began performing with the Wagon Wheels, a group who featured Thomas Mapfumo. His tenure with the band was short-lived, however. By 1979, he had left to pursue a solo career. Taking several of the band's musicians with him, he formed a new group, the Black Spirits. Their debut single, "Dzandimomotera," sold enough copies to qualify for gold record status. As a solo artist, Mtukudzi had his first successes shortly after Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980. His debut solo album, Africa, included two hits: "Zimbabwe" and "Mazongonyedze." Mtukudzi has consistently balanced his musical career with his passion for film and drama. In addition to appearing in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music, including the BBC-produced Under African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira, he starred in Jit, the first film featuring an all-Zimbabwean cast. He also played a prominent role in, as well as composed and arranged the soundtrack for, Zimbabwe's second film, Neria. His work earned him a M'Net award for Best Soundtrack of 1992. Mtukudzi subsequently wrote and directed the musical production Was My Child (Plight of Street Children). With the accompaniment of the Black Spirits or the 12-piece supergroup Mahube, Mtukuduzi continued to tour and record. In February 1994, they spent six weeks performing in Austria and Switzerland. That December, they shared a double bill with Lucky Dube for a concert in South Africa. In 1997, Mtukudzi performed in Holland, Germany, Zimbabwe, and South Africa with Mahube, who are comprised of South African musicians. An album, Mahube, was released in October 1998. Mtukudzi reached his commercial peak with the album Tuku Music, which spent 11 weeks at the top of the CMJ New World Music charts. The album has been released in Zimbabwe on the Zimbabwe Music Corporation label, in South Africa on the Sheer Sound label, in Europe on the Label Bleu label, in the United Kingdom on the Connoisseur Collection label, and in North America on the Putumayo World Music label. Shortly after the album's release, Mutukudzi toured the United States and Canada, along with Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate and Baaba Maal, as part of Africa FÃªte 1999. A video of Mtukudzi's September 1999 performance in San Francisco was released in February 2000. The album Paivepo reached the top position on Zimbabwe's music charts the first week after its release in November 1999. ~ Craig HarrisPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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