Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi

Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe
Jennifer W. Kyker
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/31/2016
Format: Hardback 30 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02223-3
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Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and composer, has performed worldwide and released some 50 albums. One of a handful of artists to have a beat named after him, Mtukudzi blends Zimbabwean traditional sounds with South African township music and American gospel and soul, to compose what is known as Tuku Music. In this biography, Jennifer W. Kyker looks at Mtukudzi’s life and art, from his encounters with Rhodesian soldiers during the Zimbabwe war of liberation to his friendship with American blues artist Bonnie Raitt. With unprecedented access to Mtukudzi, Kyker breaks down his distinctive performance style using the Shona concept of "hunhu," or human identity through moral relationships, as a framework. By reading Mtukudzi's life in connection with his lyrics and the social milieu in which they were created, Kyker offers an engaging portrait of one of African music's most recognized performers. Interviews with family, friends, and band members make this a penetrating, sensitive, and uplifting biography of one of the world’s most popular musicians.

Author Bio

Jennifer W. Kyker holds a joint appointment as Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Eastman School of Music and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester.


“A Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and composer, Mtukudzi has performed worldwide and released over 50 albums. This unprecedented and uplifting biography features both his life and art, from his encounters with Rhodesian soldiers during the Zimbabwe war of liberation to his friendship with Bonnie Raitt.”

“This is an excellent expanded professional biography of Oliver Mtukudzi, the famous Zimbabwean popular band leader, composer, and troubadour. Jennifer W. Kyker has dedicated many months of tireless on-site research in Zimbabwe and internationally to provide this kind of loving detail. The results of such a wealth of interviews and interactions with a range of participants in Mtukuzdi's career as well as Mtukudzi himself are richly evident not only in the main text but in the 'dialogue boxes' of selections from interviews and other materials thoughtfully provided at the end, along with several appendices and a photo gallery.”
 — David Coplan, author of In Township Tonight!

“Informed by two decades of intimate engagement with Zimbabwean music and religion, Kyker’s study offers the first sustained examination of Oliver Mtukudzi’s oeuvre, and reveals the rich political literacies at work in local and diasporic practices of listening. Kyker illumines how audiences and performers collaborate to make meaning. Along with exemplary analyses of his musical idiom, this work shows how, like deep Shona proverbs, Tuku’s lyrics are frequently transplanted into varying contemporary commentaries. Innovative, meticulous, and exquisitely attentive to historical context, this study will be a must-read for the fields of ethnomusicology, African languages, and new African diaspora studies.”
 — Tsitsi Jaji, author of Africa in Stereo:Modernism, Music and Pan-African Solidarity

“Jennifer Kyker offers a vivid, insightful account of Oliver Mtukudzi, whose big voice and heartfelt songs make him a living legend of Afropop. Mtukudzi’s commitment to fostering positive social relations emerges with clarity and passion in her writing, which bears witness to how Mtukudzi's music has both shaped and been shaped by Zimbabwean history, politics, and society.”
 — Bonnie Raitt

“Artfully crafted, this volume transverses key moments in recent Zimbabwean history heard through the author's sophisticated discussion of specific Mtukudzi songs as well as through the deep and varied reactions of listeners to those songs. Like the best ethnomusicology, the book clearly and forcefully demonstrates the real, tangible importance of popular music in social life.”
 — Thomas Turino, author of Nationalists, Cosmoplitans, and Popular Music in Zimbabwe

“With this book, Kyker gives an account of Mtukudzi’s musical life, but to call it a biography would be misleading. While it does take a mostly chronological journey through Tuku’s story, it uses his life and music as a jumping-off point to talk about the role of music across various facets of Zimbabwean social life and history. . . . Kyker has created a thoroughly fascinating book.”
 — Songlines

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Art of Determination
1. Hwaro/Foundations
2. Performing the Nation’s History
3. Singing Hunhu after Independence
4. Neria: Singing the Politics of Inheritance
5. Return to Dande
6. Listening as Politics
7. What Shall We Do?: Music, Dialogue, and HIV/AIDS
8. Listening in the Wilderness
Conclusion: I Have Finished My Portion of the Field