I just got back from one of the most remarkable performances I've seen. Oliver Mtukudzi & Black
Spirits played the Barns.
The show was sold out; and there were a number of folks trying to get last minute tickets. Nothing new... but the crowd of folks asking for spares started in the parking lot.
Instrumentally the band was fairly standard, no Koras or Talking Drums that, say, Baaba Maal brings along. Of course Tuku's Zimbabwe is a long way from Maal's Senegal. The lineup was fronted by Oliver on lead vocals & guitar, two female and one male backup singers. That front four was flanked by a keyboardist and a percussionist on opposite sides. In back we had drums, electric bass, and electric guitar.
The songs are very nicely crafted. I noticed, for instance, on one song the keyboard used a similar tone to Oliver's guitar. And during the song the lead flowed very nicely between the two instruments. Throughout the electric guitar provided a smoothly percussive counterpoint.
The singers provide a very lush background for Tuku. I love Oliver Mtukudzi's voice; it is strong and powerful yet still very melodic. There was only one song that had English lyrics the entire night. In spite of that lack of lyrical understanding, it was still wonderful. That front four (Tuku and his backup singers) were always moving.
There was some loose choreography for each song. It looked very natural and was totally engaging. At some point it was just too much for the crowd; and we had a full blown populist revolt on our hands. It was started by a renegade group of Zimbabweans. They <gasp> got up and were dancing in the aisles. And the crowd grew, filled both aisles and spilled out onto the foot of the stage. And most surprising, there were no ushers to be found. No one to sit them all down. By the encore 95% of the audience was up and dancing.
Afterward there was a massive line of folks buying CDs and shirts and waiting for Oliver to come sign them all.
Next time he comes around make a point of checking him out.