Oliver Mtukudzi’s new-look Black Spirits band
By Jonathan Mbiriyamveka
It’s been three shows already since Oliver Mtukudzi overhauled his backing group, the Black Spirits, and many of his fans have been asking who the new faces are.
The group now comprises mostly session musicians. Enock Piroro replaced Never Mpofu on bass while Strovers Maswobe is on percussion and vocals. He took over from Namatayi Mubariki. Tuku roped in lead guitarist Max Chiwara.
Blessing Muparutsa took over from Simba Dembedza who had a stint on the drums after Sam Mataure assumed his new role as a full time manager. Sadly, the new band does not have female vocalists, something that makes it awkward for a band like the Black Spirits, which had so many musical elements.
That gap is likely to be felt more when Tuku performs such hits as “Todii”, “Bvuma”, “Mabasa”, “Kudya Kuye Kuripi” and “Dzoka Uyamwe” to mention just a few. Muparutsa, Piroro and Chiwara are not necessarily new to the Black Spirits having all played in the band over the past years.
A veteran guitarist in his own right, Chiwara was once a member of the famed Black Spirits since the 1970s to 1985 during which he recorded a number of studio albums including “Shanje”. Piroro was part of Tuku’s band on a part-time basis although he was a full-time member of Dudu Manhenga’s Color Blu.
Together with Muparutsa, Piroro toured Europe with Color Blu as well as staging sold out concerts in Africa. Piroro, who says he listens to all types of music, has also played for other renowned musicians including Shingisai Suluma and Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave.
Muparutsa – who is husband to Dudu – is originally from Mutare and a former member of The Runn Family. He used to play for the Black Spirits on a part-time basis for the greater part of his career and had to leave to join his wife. His drumming skills equal Mataure’s although he is a bit reserved and humble.
Muparutsa has played drums for a number of groups including Tanga WekwaSando, Color Blu and Mbare Trio. And since Color Blu was composed of mostly close relatives and friends, it appears Dudu will make do with session musicians when she goes on tour.
Percussionist Maswobe has a tough job to achieve when he follows the footsteps of Kenny Neshamba who was dropped from the group a couple of years ago when Tuku introduced mbira and marimba to his music. Neshamba was more than a percussionist within the Black Spirits as he delighted audiences with his live chants on the song “Mutavara”, a favourite of many.
Since Neshamba left the group, “Mutavara” no longer appeals as it did when he spiced it up with his dancehall chants of “wicked, hoyo-oo hoyo-oo!” However, what is clear is that Tuku was more biased toward jazz music as most musicians have a background in that genre to ensure continuity in terms of his katekwe, which draws much from Afro-jazz and contemporary fusion.
From the look of things, Tuku seems to be unmoved by the recent changes, especially with the inclusion of his wife Daisy in the day-to-day running of his music. Insiders say Daisy has become a major influence over the management as well as the finances, a situation that led to the sacking of the previous members.
Over and above, there was tension within the Black Spirits, fuelled by personality clashes.