Wednesday, March 11, 2009
reading between the lines
Oliver Mtukudzi, Baaba Maal & Extra Golden (African Soul Rebels Tour) @ The Roundhouse, 9th March
With the African Soul Rebels tour, now in its fifth year, you get to see three established African acts in one evening. So there's maybe enough of each of the artists to whet your appetite, but I'm not sure you get enough of a taste of any of the three. Baaba Maal's band seem to suffer particularly in this respect tonight. Having progressively increased the pace over fifty minutes or so, it seems a shame they have to make way just as the people start to dance.
Long-established Zimbabwean singer-guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi has made a career of diplomacy and tact. Where others--most notably fellow veteran Thomas Mapfumo--have moved abroad so they can safely vent their spleen on the subject of the Mugabe regime, Mtukudzi still lives there, relying on gentle allegory to get his point across rather than being openly critical. From what he says tonight, you can tell he is used to choosing his words carefully. There's what he says, then there's what he doesn't say.
Often it's up to you to fill in the blanks. “Where we come from, music is like food" (We need it to survive? It's under threat?). "Where we come from, you don’t get to sing when you have nothing to say" (People who sing have a chance to say something, to make their voice heard?). "Where we come from, most of all we use music to defuse tension" (If we just use it to criticise, we are silenced so we can no longer get our message across??).
Just occasionally his meaning is more obvious. "If one country is inferior to another, there is something wrong". "This song is about discipline. In order to be head of a family, you must have discipline."
This is what he sounds like: