JAZZ/rock/soul bass guitarist Cookie Tutani has died.
Report by Conway Tutani
Tutani, who was 63, passed away on Tuesday morning in Dallas, Texas in the United States, where he had settled about a decade ago.
Tutani, who was my cousin, was born in Harare (now Mbare) township, where he grew up with other budding musicians of his era such as Clancy Mbirimi, David Ndoro, Louis Mhlanga, the late Hilton Mambo and David Marumahoko, where they learnt to play instruments at the Boys’ Club at Stodart Hall, run by the municipality.
This was at a time when Mbare was a vibrant cultural centre with various sports and music facilities provided to young boys and girls for recreation and a spirit of community prevailed in contrast to the grime and crime it is now associated with. Young people could thrive in that community because they were given creative, healthy and legitimate outlets to express and entertain themselves.
Tutani, who was inspired to take up music by his late uncle Simangaliso Tutani, a jazz saxophonist and bassist, soon formed a group called The Weetstones with other boys at the club in the 1960s and they became popular with the youths in the community and other townships like Highfield and Mabvuku.
This was during the colonial times when city centre venues were off-limits to blacks and performances before mixed audiences were rare. But the youthful Weetstones would get an opportunity to play before a multiracial crowd in the Glamis Stadium at the “Texan Rock Band Contest” at the annual Salisbury (now Harare) Agricultural Show and got rave reviews.
This brought the races together, but blacks and whites would now and then clash on the terraces as racial tension boiled over mostly at the instigation of diehard white racists.
After the disbandment of the Weetstones, Tutani and his colleagues formed the Four Aces with whom he lifted the roof in Stodart Hall and at other township venues whenever he sang the Simon & Garfunkel classic Feelin’ Groovy (The 59th Street Bridge Song). They toured the region with the Aces.
In the 1970s, Tutani teamed up with legendary guitarist Mhlanga (who has become a household name in South Africa), the late charismatic drummer Jethro Shasha and James Indi to form super group Baked Beans.
After independence he performed with Simangaliso, Shasha, the late guitarist Jonah Marumahoko and nimble pianist Chris Chabuka as Jazz Survivors.
Tutani relocated to South Africa in the late 1990s and moved on to the US a few years later.
He will be buried in the US.
Tutani, who was a widower, leaves behind a daughter, Barbara, and two grandchildren.