Oliver Mutukudzi, Zimbabwe’s popular music star, roams from Johannesburg to Copenhagen, Harare to London, his bag overflowing with lyrics and rhythms blending the wisdom of the Shona to Korekore in the north and Ndebele in the south.
His enthusiasm is infectious – and his wide grins, spontaneous laugh and resonating voice win him new fans whenever he performs. But it is his up-market music centres, Pakare Paye, he is concentrating on these days.
Situated about 40 kilometres south of Harare, Pakare Paye (translated as the old times again’) is already beginning to nurture future music icons.
The centre is filled with a fantastic mix of musical memorabilia – framed posters and platinum discs, djembe drums – and has a performance auditorium where talents can be tried, tested and treasured.
Youngsters busy themselves with musical instruments. Soon sweet percussion accompanied by rhythmic sounds and soulful voices fills the performance venue. A seemingly dull morning comes alive.
Pakare Paye’s atmosphere is imbued with Mutukudzi’s expressive voice and his lyrics, which deal candidly with the lives of Zimbabweans ordinary people who live extraordinary lives. The economic meltdown, corruption, hunger and government all come under his lyrical scrutiny.
When you consider the economic situation in Zimbabwe, the centre is a major coup. But Tuku recognised the importance of allowing youngsters to change their fortunes through their talents. Inspirations include some of Africa’s foremost musicians, like the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti from Nigeria; Sam Fan Thomas, who established Cameroon’s first private 24-track studio; Alpha Blondy, who owns a production company, a studio and a performance venue that can hold 100,000 people in Grand Bassam, and Senegal’s Youssou N’dour.
Oliver Mutukudzi is a living embodiment of a resilient African musician and he is a role model to millions of boys and girls. He has given support to up-and-coming oung musicians such as Poda Muriwa of the Pakare Paye ensemble, who is soon to release a solo album. Many others will follow suit, making their own success as musicians or in sound engineering.
One young man came here wanting to sing. But he soon realised that his talent was in sound engineering, and we encouraged him to do that. That is the essence of this centre: to give these children [a chance to do] their best, says Mutukudzi.
To me, children are the best gifts we have. They have a lot of dignity and courage, and a lot of strength. We should give them an ear, set aside our grief and deal with their needs. How can we help them if we don’t spent time with them and discover their talents.
Each child is artistically talented in some way, but the challenge lies in unlocking and growing the talent to benefit the community and the individual. Pakare Paye offers this chance.
The idea of the centre was in me since the early eighties. I thought it would be a good thing to give back to the community what I have earned throughout my music career, says Mutukudzi.
To me, children are the best gifts we have. They have a lot of dignity and courage, and a lot of strength. We should give them an ear, set aside our grief and deal with their needs.