Hailing from the heart of Africa, Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits brought Tuku Music to Ottawa this past Sunday, April 7 to the delight of many. Together they demonstrated Tuku Music, the term coined by Mtukudzi’s fans that describes the distinctive style of his sound, in all its glory. The rare show, organized by World Famous Music, took place at Ritual.
Opening for Mtukudzi and his band was Mighty Popo, Ottawa’s favorite Rwandan/Burundian singer-songwriter. Popo, who is normally surrounded by a live band, performed his first-ever solo acoustic set with Tanzanian chorist Nema. Unfortunately, part of the audience was being loud and not paying attention during Popo’s set, to the extent that it disturbed the artist and other audience members who were trying to listen. Several times, Popo asked for quiet out of respect for the art of music. This did little to help, but regardless Popo continued his intimate set despite the noise. Because of this however, he didn’t perform Nibarize, a beautiful song on which the lyrics are whispered. Popo performed several songs from his repertoire, including Gakondo, a tune about his family tree, and another one dedicated to all mothers. He concluded with the joyful Life is a Celebration, complete with plenty of crowd participation.
After a 30-minute intermission, Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits came on stage. At 60 years old, Mtukudzi is still full of life and energy and has got some killer dance moves. Dressed in a bright blue ensemble and donning his best white shoes, the Zimbabwean music icon grabbed his guitar and kicked off a refreshing performance that lasted well over an hour. The Black Spirits, comprised of a bassist, a drummer and a congas player, projected great energy as well and were instrumental throughout the performance. Not only did they play their respective instruments and dance along, they also threw in a good dose of humor.
Mtukudzi began with a mellow thought-provoking song titled Hero in which he asks “What is a hero? Do you have to die to be a hero?” A wise man of experience, he repeatedly conversed with the crowd, telling the audience stories about his homeland and how where he’s from “you don’t get to sing a song when you have nothing to say”. The set list included crowd favorites Here Me Lord, Todii and Hossana among others.
Throughout the performance, people sang along with Mtukudzi showing him love by dancing, cheering and giving him back the energy that he put forth. The music was certainly contagious enough that the few audience members constrained to their seats soon abandoned them to dance with the rest of the crowd.
It was a humbling experience to have the opportunity to see this African music legend perform live and also very encouraging to see that the people of Ottawa-Gatineau came out in large numbers to support such an incredible artist.
If you don’t already, get to know Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi and listen to the song Todii below.