‘No escape when you grow up in the shadow of legend’


JOHANNESBURG — “If it wasn’t for my father, I would have done something else with my life, not music,” Selmor Mtukudzi, the daughter of legendary musician, Oliver Mtukudzi, said.


Growing up in the shadow of such a legend, like her late brother Sam did, there was no escaping a musical future.
“He didn’t force us or anything, but you could feel that he wished we could do something to carry on his name,” she said.

And even if you didn’t know her, just by looking at Selmor you would see the resemblance, she is her father’s daughter. It is almost the classic Donnie and Lalah Hathaway situation. That said, the two Mtukudzis do not sound at all alike.

The father has his Tuku music thing going where he fuses traditional Zimbabwean sounds with acoustic strings. He has been doing this for more than three decades and Selmor is not about to compete with that.

“I do Afro-soul music, which draws influences from several parts of the world. It is something that you may qualify as world music, but with a deep African presence,” she explained her new album, Expressions, which is her first South African release, is to test whether the local market will find her interesting.

“I put my heart into it as it is the most personal album I have done. I wrote all the songs from some experiences I was going through in my life at the time,” she explained.

The interesting thing is that Expressions is primarily sung in Shona, the songbird’s mother tongue. With South Africa having 11 official languages, it will be interesting to know how listeners will receive this album.

“I think music goes beyond understanding lyrics. It is about feelings, the mood it puts one into and the emotions it evokes.
“If you look at some of the music we have loved over the years, from the likes of Fela Kuti and Salif KeÏta, you realise that most of us do not understand what is being said, but we love it all the same.

“It all boils down to the song construction and how it resonates with the listener. I know my father’s Neria is big here, but I am sure many people do not understand what he is saying. So Expressions should be taken in the same vein. I am just expressing myself,” she explained.
Cashing in on her father’s clout, Selmor teamed up with Lucky Dube’s daughter, Nkulee Dube, to perform in a series of concerts earlier in the year.

“We did very well to honour our fathers who are the reason why we are in this business.
“We are hoping to do more shows of this kind in the near future,” she said.

Expressions has already had some international acclaim with the band being booked in countries as far off as Spain.
“We were in Spain not so long ago and they have asked us to come back again later in the year,” Selmor said.

The official launch of Expressions will be held at a date yet to be announced in Pretoria at the State Theatre.