Why Oliver Mtukudzi still matters

Was it a privilege? Yes, I guess it was.

On the night of Wednesday, August 20, I had an opportunity to share the same dinner table with Oliver Mtukudzi, hosted by Latitude 13, barely 48 hours before he staged a sterling performance at the Bingu International Conference Centre auditorium on invitation by Qoncept Creative which is setting some ambitious bars in the entertainment business.

Talking to him on the day, his voice was perpetually husky; you needed to pay close attention to listen to what exactly he was talking about.

Also present on the table were his female vocalists, Alice Muringayi and Fiona Gwena, as well as his drummer Sam Mataure and a youthful bass guitarist, Enoch Piroro.

The one who was taking command of the conversation was Sam who talked a lot about their globe-trotting career which has taken them to almost all corners of planet earth.    

Both Tuku and Sam recalled names of people they have dealt with in Malawi before, including Enoch Mbandambanda and a music promoter from Blantyre called Pedro, whom Tuku described as the calmest Malawian he has ever met.

Both Sam and Tuku recalled how disorganised this promoter was. He was so disorganised that everything that was supposed to facilitate their performance was not adding up and yet Pedro never pressed the panic button as he kept assuring them with aplomb that all was well.

The instruments were poor, they remembered, and that when they reached the stage it was very dark they had to use headlamps from two vehicles that were positioned on the either side of the stage for the show to take place.

Well, this is a story for another day.

At the dinner the impression Tuku gave me was that age was catching up with him although he is only 62. His speech was almost a drawl, twiddling around issues like he was not ready to talk at all.

Even when my colleague Yvonne Sundu and I asked to talk to him away from the dinner table, for him just to rise from where he sat and walk to the place we needed him to be took a lot of effort.

But come Friday night at the Bingu International Conference Centre auditorium, I saw another Oliver Mtukudzi.

Throughout the show I kept asking myself how can one person live two lives that are a total contrast of each other?

From a seemingly tired old man to an energetic musical super star who danced throughout the 16 songs that he played for two hours running, I was left dazed with amazement at his energy-consuming dancing antics.

My fear throughout the performance was that fatigue will catch up with him. I was wrong. His dinner table fading voice was gone, replaced by a booming voice that has become the Tuku signature worldwide.

My goodness, Tuku and The Black Spirits only use five instruments for all the international appeal; the voice, the lead guitar, the bass, the drum and an occasional tambourine.

However, because Tuku is so good at his game, he leaves you with the impression that he has a whole range of instruments, including an orchestra, for his trademark Tuku music.


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