Selmor steps out

Admire Kudita

Thirty-seven-YEAR-OLD songstress Selmor Mtukudzi, daughter of the late music legend Oliver Mtukudzi, last week launched her latest and sixth album Ganda Renzou in the capital in a show which would have variously assured, comforted and bewildered musical fans.

Selmor’s musical pedigree is well established. She was even carving her own unique path, while her late father Oliver yet lived. Selmor evolved a type of Afro dance groove with jit music inflections in albums such as Shungu (2008), Live (2011), Ndinewe (I’m With You) (2012), Expressions (2013) and I Am Woman (2015). She managed to be a contender for best female artiste awards and, in one particular year, 2014, gospel singer Olivia Charamba was controversially given a National Arts Merit Award when some industry watchers were tipping Selmor to win the accolade. Charamba had not released any new work in the year under consideration for the award.

Today, Selmor is riding the crest of a wave after the launch of her Steve Dyer-produced latest offering. Dyer was a sensible choice for the artiste, who wanted to emulate her father’s musical mould. Dyer is, according to some, partly the reason why Tuku blew up after the release of his 36th album, Tuku Music, in 1999, which had hit singles such as Todii? and Dande.

It was Tuku’s much-coveted breakthrough moment and his ascent into the sparsely populated stratosphere of African musical icons alongside the likes of Salif Keita, Youssou Ndou and Hugh Masekela.

It was also courtesy of Debbie Metcalfe’s deft management and a dream team of journeymen musicians such as Clive Mono Mukundu, Sam Mataure and Adam Chisvo.
Tuku was so big that even Chioniso Maraire and Prudence Katomeni backed him in some of his shows. The rest, as they say, was a collection of world tours, accolades and fortune.

But this is the challenge of Selmor’s decision to pick up Tuku music. Her official Facebook page is emblazoned with the words “Tuku Music lives on”. Clearly, she is angling for the vacated spot. But does musical artistry get inherited by the progeny of music stars? The Beatles members all have children who have tried and failed to rise to the prominence of their parents. Pop culture is tricky in the sense that there is always a new thing or artiste to fawn over. Selmor may have made a dicey gamble with this musically well-crafted recording.

Dyer once fronted Southern Freeway, a South African band which once had its base in Bulawayo during South Africa’s apartheid days. He is a natural fit for producing Tuku music because the definitional elements of Tuku’s music have their roots in the mbaqanga influences of Tuku’s early collaborators.

This writer interviewed Ray Phiri, the former frontman of South African super group of yesteryear, Stimela, who revealed his contribution to Oliver Mtukudzi’s early works. Phiri intimated that Tuku’s then producer at Gallo Records, West Nkosi, used to be flown in along with other musicians, the likes of drummer Isaac Mtshali, for recording sessions in the then Salisbury.

The question which remains is whether Selmor will at some point either retrieve her own musical sound or negate it altogether in favour of the tried and tested? Only time will tell. Selmor Mtukudzi is a musician and actress with promise. Her launch event was attended by members of her father’s and husband Tendai Manatsa’s family. Impala Car Hire bankrolled the launch event with Alick Macheso, Picky Norman Masamba (Tuku’s sidekick) and Sulu Chimbetu opening for Selmor.

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