Music Greats: Tuku, Ladysmith Black Mambazo join forces


Two big names in the music world, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Zimbabwe's award-winning Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi have joined forces on an exciting new project.

They released details of a joint recording in Durban. Mtukudzi's husky voice and his guitar combined with the unique sounds of the isicathamiya Black Mambazo group is set to be a winning combination.

To record with South Africa's four-time Grammy award winners has been Mtukudzi's wish even though he is also the recipient of numerous international music awards. He chose his well-known hit “Neria” … a song about a woman whose husband died and who is told to stay strong in her faith in God, for the collaboration. 

“I wrote the song ‘Neria’ in 1990 with full instrumentation but I always thought it would be more appealing if it was done acapella,” says Mtukudzi.

The group, including its founder Joseph Shabalala, who is recovering from illness, will add their magic. The song will be included on Mtukudzi's 63rd album – a compilation of collaborations he is done over the years.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, known for their work with international stars, say they also want to work more with young local artistes. 

The group's Albert Mazibuko says they believe the younger ones have new ideas, the older people have the wisdom so that this will be a beautiful country. 

The popular group will soon start recording the soundtrack of “Black Mambazo – The Musical”, which ran at the state theatre earlier this year, and is also set to be performed at Durban's Playhouse in September.         

Mtukudzi and Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, first met as young men in 1978 and have admired each other’s music since then. Last week, they were in studio in Durban, making magic as they recorded their first ever collaboration. The duo had long decided to do a rendition of Tuku’s internationally famous “Neria” together.

“We have performed together at many events and festivals,” said Tuku during a break in their recording, “but that wasn’t it. I wanted to do something with you and finally it has happened.”

Shabalala, who has not been performing for quite a while, but made a special effort to come and be a part of the “Neria” recording, said he was moved to be able to work with Tuku.

“I love this type of music,” he said, pausing to sing a few verses of the ever popular 'Neria”, before continuing, “Wow, it’s touching man!” Tuku talked about the significance of the song.

“When I first wrote the song in 1990, the issue of women having to struggle with relatives trying to possess their property after the death of a husband was pertinent in Zimbabwe. Today, over 20 years later, women still struggle with the same issue,” he said.

“Yes, definitely, people must write wills, but out of respect, relatives must support widows, rather than fight for their possessions.

“What we’ve found is that even in South Africa and elsewhere around Africa, women have similar problems so the song resonated with Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well.”

Tuku’s studio date with the four-time Grammy winners is part of his next big Tuku and friends project titled “Abi’angu II”.

This follows his first collaboration album, “Abi’angu”, released in 2011.

“Abi’angu II” will also feature Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita, Kunle Ayo, Alick Macheso, Ammara Brown and Gary Tight.

About a fortnight ago Tuku was in the studio in Johannesburg recording with Ayo.

The word “abi’angu” is from the Kore Kore dialect of the Shona language and means “my friends”.

Both Shabalala and Tuku share values of peace and unity.

<p> In 2008, Shabalala, in a statement said: “Ladysmith Black Mambazo must continue, as the message of peace, love and harmony must never be silenced.”

In August this year, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will travel to Harare for the first live performance of their version of “Neria” with Tuku. – SABC/The Herald

June 2014
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