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Published: 2004/07/29
by Benjy Eisen

Oliver Mtukudzi SHANDA

On the cover of SHANDA, a career retrospective of African megastar Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, there’s a ringing endorsement from Bonnie Raitt: "I love this film!" Despite her endorsement, I eagerly put this one in the DVD player. As it turns out, I agree with Bonnie I, too, love this film. And the soundtrack is heavenly.

On the heels of Trey Anastasio’s and Dave Matthews’ recently televised collaboration with Orchestra Baobab, there’s a renewed interest in African music, similar to the interest stirred by Paul Simon’s Ladysmith Black Mambaza collaboration that is to say, minimal. Both of those African groups received a fair amount of attention in the wake of their work with American superstars, but American audiences did little digging beyond that. Shame on us.

SHANDA kicks off with a live performance of Mtukudzi’s song of the same name. A hit in his native Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi’s performance of it is simply sublime. While stylistically not far from Orchestra Baobab’s Afro-pop, Mtukudzi’s signature sound dubbed "Tuku music" has never been as defined and distinguished as it is here. His politically charged lyrics that speak directly to the people in his community have made him something of a Bob Marley figure to Zimbabweans, and his music has opened doors for other African stars including Thomas Mapfumo, who performed in Mtukudzi’s first group, the Wagon Wheels.

In SHANDA, Mtukudzi takes audiences through a tour of Zimbabwe, as he details highlights from his career. He visits beer halls where he got his start, converses with his mother about her feelings about him being a musician, shares photos from his scrapbook, and dissects the meanings of his songs.

This DVD does double-duty as a concert film (shot at various venues in Zimbabwe) and as a documentary. Viewers have the option of watching the 70-minute integrated film or just the musical performances. Both are captivating.

There’s also a limited edition package available that bundles the DVD with a CD soundtrack. Taken from the same performances that are featured on the DVD, there’s really no need for the CD companion when you could seek out one of Mtukudzi’s full albums instead.

Inspiring, eye-opening, educational, and entertaining, SHANDA presents Mtukudzi's amazing story to the world. World get ready.

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