Tuku, Mukanya roll back the clock

LONDON - It was a tour that lived up to its billing.

A mind-blowing opening night at the Coronet Theatre in Elephant & Castle on Friday night was topped by a stellar shift at the Athena in Leicester a day later — a fitting testament to the legendary status of two of Zimbabwe’s greatest musicians.

The iconic South London venue, with its expansive dance floor and state-of-the-art stage lighting, could not have been a better setting for an historic mash-up between Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi and Thomas ‘Mukanya’ Mapfumo.

Leicester’s Athena, a performer’s dream, provided the perfect backdrop to a rare event — uniting two of Zimbabwe’s most iconic music stars.

Some 2 200 Zimbabweans, joined by curious locals, took every inch of the Athena real estate.

It was Samanyanga, as Mtukudzi is known, who opened on both nights with his acoustic guitar-laced rhythms and effusive stage work, a lanky figure executing his trademark dance to the applause of smitten fans.

The song Shamiso — from his most recent album — went down like a mouthful of cool mahewu (a traditional malt drink) down the parched throat of a fatigued farm worker, jolting the audience into a lively dance as Tuku crooned: “Ndichakutengera pata pata/Ndichakutengera siripazi”!

Ever the cultural ambassador, Tuku took time to explain for the benefit of non-Zimbabweans present how in our culture, music was the seasoning for every situation of life.

It was the balm for every ailment, and the solution to every problem.

“Where I come from we use music to defuse tension. Even when we’re sharing problems, we try and beautify the tune, to defuse the tension. Ok, let me give an example,” said the master of song as his acoustic guitar churned a classic riff of the timeless hit, Hear Me Lord!

On the song Chii Chanetsa Tuku danced in his typical lazy bones style, simulating picking fruit and popping it into his mouth from an imaginary masawu tree so prevalent in his home district of Mt Darwin.

Watching Tuku dance, it was impossible not to be consumed by nostalgia, imagining his old pal Picky Kasamba shadowing his every move, executing their dance routine in seamless unison as they used to.

It has to be said, doesn’t it, how the Tuku experience has changed so much with the arrival and departure of such memorable band members, and yet remains undiminished.

After a solid three hours of Tuku Music at the Coronet, there was a change of guard on stage as the pulsating, earthy sound of Chimurenga thrashed at our earlobes.

The Blacks Unlimited band launched into the popular anthem Joyce as it announced Mukanya’s arrival on stage.

In his trademark fedora perched atop flowing dreadlocks, Mukanya opened his account with the old time classic Bhutsu Mutandarika.

As the audience surrendered to the reverberations of the mbira, Mukanya turned from his microphone to complain bitterly to the sound engineers for what he believed was a poor sound coming through the speakers.

As the altercation continued for more than a minute in full view of the fans, they began booing disapprovingly to summon Mapfumo back to his mic.

His complaint was not without justification though; one struggled to hear the riffs of the mbira and lead guitar with much clarity.

But the crowd’s enthusiasm was undimmed and all they wanted was for the dreadlocked one to get on with it.
And he did, albeit with a sour countenance throughout his set.

As he bellowed into his mic on the song Chamunorwa, all was forgiven and the Chimurenga-starved fans lapped up Mukanya’s delivery with relish, singing along with him.

Watching the performance, one could not help marvelling at the stark difference in styles between the two artistes.

Tuku on the one hand is the effusive showman, affable and nimble on his feet, while on the other Mukanya is stoic on his mic and yet exudes charismatic aura, inducing a cult-like adulation from an audience feasting on his every enchantment!

Each time he does a little dance, the crowd breaks into applause as though just the very effort itself deserves their appreciation! Winky D’s dig on the old master rings hollow in this regard — this man is colossal!

Mukanya wound through his massive back catalogue, picking up classic after classic with the fans jiving along with much gusto.

After an impressive three-hour set, it was clear the Chimurenga-famished fans had received a generous helping.

As he brought the show to a close, Mukanya took time to apologise for the poor sound and laid into the promoters for short-changing the fans.

“Hameno kuti vamutora kupi uyu (the sound engineer) haazive zvaari kuita,” he drawled as the crowd chanted “Gandanga! Gandanga!”

The Leicester shows went ahead more smoothly without the sound issues that dogged Mapfumo’s set.

The one damper on the entire tour, though, is that the two icons did not perform a duet or share a single moment on stage together.

That would have been the icing on what turned out to be a very delicious cake! — New Zimbabwe.com

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