HARARE – Music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi showed why he is truly a legend with last week’s tribute concert that left his fans spellbound.
After a dinner held in his honour hosted by FBC Bank on September 26 that attracted Cabinet ministers, security chiefs and the-who-is-who in the world of music, the stage was set for the tribute concert the next day in which Tuku and his musical friends serenaded until the wee hours.
But the highlight of the night for me was Tuku’s magical reunion with his former sidekick Picky Kasamba on stage. So flawless was the Tuku-Kasamba duet that it was easy to forget that the two last performed together seven years ago.
The celebrated duo’s instinctive and well-choreographed dance moves gave the big crowd that had come to celebrate the life of Tuku through song and dance something to savour.
The telepathic on-stage understanding and the synchronised dance moves painstakingly created over a quarter of a century was all there for all to see and cherish.
Memories came flooding back for Tuku’s fans who suddenly realised what they had been missing since the unassuming Kasamba quit the Black Spirits to run a family business in sleepy Bindura.
It was not surprising to hear many in the crowd — myself included —calling for the return of Picky.
Without taking anything away from Tuku’s performances since Picky left in 2008, I believe the music legend misses the rare touch that his former sidekick has in abundance.
Their combination on the tango is always a pleasure to watch with fans such as Stan Kasukuwere — a man who was by my side all night-declaring that “Picky should come, I really miss his performance”.
An easy-going man — almost unnoticeable until he lands on stage — Picky became the grandmaster of the percussion during his stint with the Black Spirit. His peerless backing vocals were key features in the shaping of katekwe music which has since become a global phenomenon.
The Tuku tribute concert confirmed in unambiguous terms Tuku’s stature as an international performer par excellence.
How many artistes have the ability to lure such internationally acclaimed luminaries as Hugh Masekela, Steve Dyer, Judith Sephuma and Eric Wainaina to attend their tribute bash?
Tuku’s voice behind the microphone, his ingenuity on the acoustic guitar, and litheness on stage left me with an impression that the 61-year-old songster was a mere 16-year-old.
But as good as Tuku is I still feel that his duet with Picky makes him a lot better.
Away from brilliance of the Tuku-Picky match-up, Friday’s tribute also went a long way in showing how respected the music superstar is by fellow Zimbabwean musicians.
Ex-Black Spirits members Mary Bell now based in the United States of America and Dudu Manhenga — both of whom have since become big brands in their own right — brought back fond memories of the old Black Spirits.
Popular musicians like Suluman Chimbetu, Alick Macheso and Steve Makoni added a touch of class to arguably one of the most memorable nights in Tuku’s four-decade long career.
It was also marvellous to see mbira legend Mbuya Stella Chiweshe help Tuku sing the gospel track Hosanna — a song that Samanyanga composed when he was still in the formative stages of his music career.
The new generation of musicians also joined their more established counterparts in celebrating the career of an outstanding Zimbabwean music icon.
Ba Shupi’s rendition of Tuku’s Shamiso earned him cheers from the crowd as he imitated Samanyanga’s voice and dance moves with fervour.
Jean Masters also won kudos for performance of Seiko with Cynthia Mare also giving an exceptional rendition of Perekedza Mwana.
The climax of the show was, however, when all participants came together on stage to sing a birthday song for Tuku, who turned 61 a week ago.
They were led by jazz singer Dudu Manhenga.