Apr 2011 27

So Oliver Mtukudzi was playing a gig in town and I decided to go check it out. Let me explain how much of an understatement that is. Oliver Mtukudzi does not have mere gigs in Zimbabwe- he has conventions! where fans come to sing his songs louder than him. Do you understand what I’m trying to say? It’s not a situation where the audience chimes in to sing along in the chorus ati politely. No sir! I’m saying that when the guitarist strikes the first chord weh! But I get ahead of myself. Let’s start with the arrival of the fans.

So there we are in a traffic jam, one kilometer long, when we decide to pay the cab driver and walk the rest of the way. The cab guy charges us USD 4 knowing very well that you will have a 5 dollar bill and he won’t have a dollar change. It is not uncommon to be asked to purchase some extra sweets at a kiosk, when you are owed a dollar change so that ‘it can end then and there’. But in a cab what can you get for a dollar? The airfreshener hanging from the rear-view mirror? ‘I’ll take that thank you very much. Enjoy body odour.’

The venue was a hotel whose name I don’t remember. According to his manager(Oliver), it’s been a year since they last played this venue; the management had complained that the last time it got too full. ‘Oh, so it’s a small room,’ I think to myself because we always want to compare ourselves to other artists- it’s natural. While there are no ill wishes towards the other artist, we want to know that we kinda measure up. Well! The room in question is a megalopolis of a room with not one, but 2 levels, with balcony seating alone of approximately 2000 people! I counted the chairs! Have you heard that that is just the balcony? Then there is the mirror image of that balcony on the ground level. Aya. Are you with me? Those are 4,000 people. Then there’s the dance floor which holds 1000 people plausibly. Basically everyone who was at Carnivore for Hugh Masekela’s concert, and if you were at the back, you know there were many people- now all those guys on the dance floor!! The hall, as it is more aptly described, is a behemoth of 1970s African Government ,newly independent concrete grandeur-type architecture, where the artist on stage is dwarfed by a stage that must be 3 storeys high. The artist looks like what it would look like, if you grouped your roll-on, lotion and other beauty products and placed them against your bedroom wall and took a few steps back to check out the proportions.

Women in Zim insist on the highest heels, the tightest clothes and the weaves?! I tell you! Phphphphphph! I whistle in amazement at the weaves. The men will do the usual jeans and Tees. There is a universal love for alcohol though, and nearly everyone is carrying around a single or double 6 pack of Zambezi beer or a wine cooler. Good times are to be had. Weirdly, there are no indoor smoking rules so if you want to light up, just do so.

Anyway, before Tuku plays a young man by the name of Munya curtain-raises. Munya plays a set of really cool original material. Then he does this thing where he adopts the persona of a radio DJ and plays all these hits from Zim’s yesteryear. The crowd goes crazy and moves to the dance floor in droves, twisting and gyrating and booking a space on for themselves and their double six pack of Zambezi beer. (The rationale that prompts the hotel management to set up only one bar for that number of people is an issue for discussion on another day).

I hate to say this but the following act was not much to write about so I won’t.

Then Tuku comes onto stage. I say again. Then. Tuku. Comes. Onto. Stage. Nothing can prepare you for the thunderous ovation that greets him. Now si I’ve told you that the place is packed. I’ve also told you that the bar in the hotel lobby is packed. As if that room could get any fuller!! The crowds that might have sat down for the second opening act that I refuse to comment on come back to claim their space. And I don’t now what it is about dance floors in Africa- there’s always space for one more. We are now a heaving mass of Africans waiting to be addressed by their leader. Like I said earlier, when Tuku strikes the first chord of a song, people go mad! They sing ,not only the words, but also the guitar line, and they know where every hit is going to occur. There is anticipation, awareness and love in the air.

I left probably an hour and half later when I felt the last songs were coming up. I had no interest in getting stuck in the traffic jam that I knew would follow. The people I had come to the concert with had left earlier, soon after the fifth song. We’d all had a long day but their main complaint was that they had come to hear Tuku play not hear the audience sing. I disagree. That’s why we write. To get into people’s souls. That our words might be their words and our thoughts their thoughts and Tuku is all that to Zimbabwe.


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  4. Abaka Nyamori says:

    Well penned. You took me to Harare and back, your words are very capturing. And yes! I love Tuku’s music and yours too! This morning I listened to Adhiambo, you are a role model to upcoming artists and Kenyans on accepting cultural diversity…I’m avoiding the word ethnicity…

  5. “Where there is love there is life.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi

  6. Es! (@Kiumyamuthaka) says:

    Singing along to an artists songs/lyrics just shows how much you love and appreciate their music (maybe them too). *clears throat* I’m that chic who will sing along happily and who cares about the tune! Lol.

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