Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits Delight DC Audiences

Last week, the Lisner Stadium at George Washington University was filled with the unique sounds of “Tuku” music. Oliver Mtukudzi or “Tuku” as his fans refer to him, is a renowned Zimbabwean musician. He is well known for his award –winning spirited and powerful music. His songs often have a message about pertinent social issues including Aids, child abuse, and discrimination. Since he has been using his music as a site for activism, Mtukudzi has been given a number of accolades for his work, including being named a UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Mtukudzi’s popularity goes beyond Africa’s borders. He is one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known musicians and is currently Zimbabwe’s most recognizable musical exports. His popularity with international and diverse audiences could be seen by the fan base that came out to see the show. Fans from the Zimbabweans Diaspora attended the show in support of the musician. The audience was also filled with an international crowd that included his Africans from countries such as Malawi, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. It also included a large American fan base who made up the majority of the audience that attended. Members of Southern African Connection team crew also attended the show.

The opening act, Krar Collective ,a London-based Ethiopian music group, entertained the audience with their traditionally inspired Ethiopian music. As the band wrapped up there performance, the anticipation for Mtukudzi grew. One fan from Mozambique noted that she had never seen Mtukudzi in concert but was invited by a friend to see and hear him for the first time. Another Zimbabwean fan mentioned that he had seen Mtukudzi before but continues to see him each time he comes to the area because he enjoyed the concerts.

When Mtukudzi walked on to the stage with his signature acoustic guitar, fans waited in anticipation to hear which one of his hits he would play – with a career that began in the 1970s, there was a plethora of “Tuku” songs that has captivated audiences for years that he could have selected from. Mtukudzi played songs from his new album as well as his older ones. He was flanked by, his band, The Black Sprits, which is comprised of Zimbabwean female back-up singer (who was a songtress in her own right), a guitarist and a drum player. In true Tuku style, the 60 year old musician, accompanied his singing with guitar-playing and dancing to the delight of the audiences.

Fans were so captivated by the performance, that by the second song, more than half of the room were on their feet singing and dancing along to their favorite hits – sitting down in this seated auditorium was not an option. Fans danced all the way through to the final song when Mtukudzi exited the stage. After the gentle coaxing of fans, Mtukudzi was gracious enough to give an encore performance. Mtukudzi’s performance was entertaining but didactic – in between all the singing and dancing – Mtukudzi took time to speak about social issues that were dear to his heart. It was a pleasurable evening for all that attended and surely, next time Mtukudzi is in the Washington DC area he will continue to draw a diverse and lively audience.

Author: Sitinga Kachipande for Southern African Connection

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