Oliver Mtukudzi - Tsimba Itsoka
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Oliver Mtukudzi
Tsimba Itsoka
Heads Up International (www.headsup.com)

This latest by Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi doesn't differ greatly from many of his past works. He's got his usual sagely, world-weary vocal style, supported by the same electric/acoustic melodies that pulsate easy but solid and subtly tug at the heartstrings. Mtukudzi's music also retains the same sweet melancholy as his peers Thomas Mapfumo and Stella Chiweshe, though that most recognizable of Zimbabwean/Shona instruments, the mbira, is heard only in keyboard-reproduced form here. And he's still great at conveying the hardships of his native land while injecting his songs with an underlying sense of hope and promise. Where his last CD, Nhava, toughened things up some with harder, faster rhythms and noticeably more forceful singing, this one slips back into the mellow mode that Mtukudzi is the master of. You could even apply that most dreaded of musical adjectives- "smooth" -to a lot of it. Don't be too concerned, however. Mtukudzi's parable-like songs have always been more about touching the soul than filling the dance floor, and even if he shows no signs of drastically changing his ways, Tsimba Itsoka is brimming with the warm, inviting sounds his fans know and love and newcomers can get hooked on. - Tom Orr

CD available from cdroots

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