THE legendary Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was three giants in one: he was a great performer, an amazing creative and an entertainer par excellence — all rolled into one. Such feats in the music industry are extraordinary.
It is a pity Sam Mtukudzi, who was Tuku’s natural successor, died in 2015, exactly four years before his father’s death. There have been gaps within the Zimbabwean music scene with fans asking: Who is the next Tuku?
As the search continues among the new crop of musicians, it is amazing how a few have dared to fill the void with authentic sound. Some are flip-flopping, mixing pop, traditional and what have you, but it appears one youngster is poised for superstardom.
Yes, Tuku was a three-in-one legend and there are not many artistes who are blessed with all these three attributes. Mbeu, whose real name is Ashton Nyahora (29), is following in the footsteps of the granddad of Zimbabwean music.
Mbeu does not hide the fact that he was inspired by the great Tuku. Mbeu, which means “seed”, is one artiste whose humility on and off stage will take him far and wide, as long as he does not change.
Many of his followers would attest to the fact that Mbeu’s sound is solid and his live performances have elevated him to levels very few, if any, have reached before.
Backed by his four-member band, The Mhodzi Tribe, he has been performing sold out concerts in and outside Harare almost every week.
The group consists of Mbeu on acoustic guitar and lead vocals; Ron Mhundwa affectionately known as “El Basso” on bass; Tawanda “T-One” Ndoro on lead guitar; Carlton Ndapasowa aka “Smosh” on keyboard and last but not least Nigel Matope aka “Tip Tom” on drums. Mbeu has just released his latest album simply titled Manera, which translates to “ladder”, a mixed bag of motivational songs coming against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which upended the world and the way business is conducted.
“Manera is a motivational album, coming as it does during the Covid-19 pandemic in which the world went into lockdown. We lost so many lives to the pandemic and what is needed now is to motivate people to pick themselves up and hope for the best,” Mbeu said.
Manera is his fourth studio album after his 2018 debut, Hatizvimirire, and Hatikendenge in the same year, The Mhodzi Diaries 1 in 2019, and in 2020, like every artiste, Mbeu went on a hiatus due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. The Afro-fusion album has plenty to love and enjoy, considering that Mbeu displays his vocal range encompassing reggae, traditional, jazz and R&B.
“We are happy with the reception of the album and even our bookings have gone up. Even under Covid-19 we have been hitting the ground running as we had corporate gigs throughout the country,” he told The NewsHawks.
The latest album was mostly produced by G-Fingers, a childhood friend he says knows his sound and quality. Other producers are Rodney Beats on Temera, a song featuring Jah Prayzah and another one by Cmplex titled Pfumo Richauya.
The title track is about hope and a better tomorrow. Although he laments the setbacks caused by Covid-19 which saw some people lose business, he says God will show the way and bring “manera”, or ladders, to those who have faith.
The other songs are Ndabvuma, which is about humility and also gives hope for a brighter day, while Bira is a party and joyful song. Drinks on Me featuring Glen Washington is also a happy song for those who want to reminisce about the good old days.
The six-track album concludes with I Don’t Know, which is again a happy song. According to Mbeu, he will be dropping some visuals to the body of work in a few weeks’ time.