Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s expert hand at guitar and his gruff, grandfatherly bluesman’s voice have served him well over the past 30 years. Nhava, the elder statesman’s 48th release, does not find Tuku taking many chances, but when the music sounds this effortlessly good, why bother? Indeed, Mtukudzi is so comfortable on his own recording that he often coughs or absent-mindedly mumbles on tape; somehow, this is more endearing than sloppy, as the impressive music and its one-take-track delivery affects a rustic bond between listener and performer. This casual musical intimacy transcends bonds of nationality and language; the choral harmonies, a precise storm of drums and the resonant, almost percussive strings of Mtukudzi’s excellent backing band, the Black Spirits, are unmistakably African but universally appealing.
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