Oliver Mtukudzi affectionately known to his legion of fans as Tuku was a larger than life character with incredible longevity in the music industry. He was born on 22 September 1952 in the township of Highfield in Harare and left us on 23 January 2019.
Long successful career
With over 60 albums to his name Tuku’s fans are spoilt for choice on which are his best songs and albums as he released one hit after another over the decades. His career is one long beautiful story showcasing a great talent. I believe that Tuku’s hits go back to the 1970s if not earlier.
Huge number of hits
The man was a prolific performer and composer. It is very difficult to believe that Tuku was only 66 years old because it seems that he been around forever. I remember the eager anticipation that would precede Tuku albums. You just knew it would be a hit and the songs would be the talk of the town.
Memorable live performances , collaborations
Tuku’s studio hits were matched by his brilliant live performances. Some artists deliver big in the studio but cannot come close in live performances. Tuku showed that he was the real deal, a maetro, genius on the stage.
There is probably no other artist I know whose performances were as anticipated like Tuku’s. He travelled extensively taking his unique sound with him and I believe that as an artist he had more collaborations with foreign artists than any other. Remember that collaboration between Oliver Mtukudzi and South Africa’s Ringo Madlingosi.
No debate about the greatest musician in Zimbabwe is complete without bringing up Mtukudzi’s name. He is one of the greats and his name is very secure in history.
Some of my early memories of music bring up songs like Shaura and Pss Hello. These were some of Tuku’s early hits with a very different sound and rhythm from his later songs. Shaura was a song he would record again and it chronicled the various talents in the music industry like Dorothy Masuka, Lovemore Majaivana, Mapfumo and others. It was a tribute in which Tuku urged them to keep singing which is Shaura in Shona.
Depth of songs
Tuku did not only have a fantastic sound and rhythm but his lyrics were deep and meaningful. He sang about life, love, providing social commentary. He also had fun songs along the way like Chimbambaira (Chiri mupoto). Who can forget Chimbambaira, non stop dancing in that song. Who can also forget Neria, Raki, Bvuma, Perekedza Mwana, just a few of his songs.
Take time to listen to the song Perekedza Mwana. It has such a sober message, accompany the child because it is getting late. Even with such a serious message, you still cannot resist getting down on the dance floor.
Here is a live performance by Mtukudzi of one of his most powerful songs, Neria.
I had a friend of mine who loved the following lines from Tuku’s Ngoma neHosho songs: Shasha yetsuri mira nepapapo, gwenyambira nekokowo. Yorire ngoma. As a child I just knew this song simply as Shaura from the chorus to the song. My friend made it a point to randomly sing these lines every now and then.
Matured like wine
What was remarkable about Tuku is that like wine he just got better with age. While his peers slowed down, Tuku kept busy in the studio and with live performances. While his earlier hits were fast paced his later years saw him becoming a jazzy artist who increased his fanbase. He was a wonderful ambassador of African music who will be dearly missed.
Unifying force in Zimbabwe
Tuku was more than a musician and artist in Zimbabwe and in Africa. He was a unifying force that brought people from different walks of life together. He bridged the divides. He has blessed us with a wonderful legacy of songs that will be still be played long into the future.
Here are 10 lessons from the legend by Rabison Shumba
The 23rd of January 2019 did not end well for Zimbabweans and indeed music lovers all over the world. We were robbed of the most celebrated artist in this generation. As a writer, all I can do is pay my respects by drawing from this man’s life some lessons we can all live by. I am honored to have been relatively close to Dr Oliver Mtukudzi. I hardly missed his shows. He gave me a cap and t-shirt. I gave him my books. He sang for me on one of my birthdays at Pakare Paye. I have lots of fond memories. What did I learn from him? I am glad you asked.
This man has left us with his work which will speak for generations to come. Year in year out he churned out albums to inspire and teach. He says in his own words that his music” aims to teach society about how to solve issues”.
We live in a society that aims to always take and not give back. Tuku contributed to his community. He spoke through his music about human rights and became goodwill ambassador for many causes. He built Pakare Paye to contribute further to mankind and to the industry.
Tuku was a well decorated artist who rose to the pinnacle of his career and purpose. In all this he maintained a level head. He remained approachable never wanting bodyguards to keep him away from people. We would have coffee like we were real brothers.
This man never liked lukewarm performances. Even at 66 he danced away with energy and zeal. He was out to ensure that his work spoke for itself. One would feel bad to buy pirated copies of his music because he was so dedicated to his craft and produced masterpieces.
He produced almost the same amount of albums that match his age or close. Over 60 albums is not a small achievement. It takes working at it continually. discipline with time and money as well as working with teams to build such a track record. He did not always have it rosy, you remember him rebuilding his band many time? He remain true to this cause.
6. Hard work
His music spoke about us reaching to the top the right way. He encouraged us to work hard and showed it by working hard himself. He would go on international tours that took him from one city to another. He literally lived on the plane, pursuing his passion and purpose.
7. Raising others
He has mentored many artistes and inspired thousands indirectly. When people look at his template they just feel inspired regardless of the area of endeavor. He was and remains legendary in that he has people who say “had it not been for Tuku, I would not be where I am now”.
He was always eager to work with others to advance his calling and to build the industry. He collaborated with jazz artists, choral groups, church choirs, dance hall artists to name a few. This he did locally and internationally.
9. Power of relationships
Very few people are as connected as the now late Dr. Tuku. He has built relationships with the “Who is Who” of the industry and indeed citizens of the world. He would travel distances to ensure he maintained relationships.
10. Being organized
He has always desired that he runs his businesses professionally. He chose to have great managers over the years, something that many upcoming artistes need to take a leaf from. He had shows arranged in advance. He showed up and delivered with excellence. Professionalism set him apart.
I will miss Tuku physically. I cried my heart out on hearing the news that the show I attended in Johannesburg late last year would be the last one. I picked all his music and that is all I have on my play list right now. My desire is that we honor this man even in his death. We did not do enough when he lived but we can still do better to propel his legacy further. A Tuku Day, National Hero status, Awards in his Honor, supporting his causes, setting up of a Tuku Foundation to combine his work and that of Sam Mtukudzi. This is just me dreaming. I am sure you have other ideas to share.
If I am hurting like this, what of Daisy “Svovi”. What of the family and all of you. “Achachema umwe ndianiko, iwe wafirwa ini ndafirwa. Achabata maoko umwe ndianiko” Words by Oliver Mtukudzi.
May Dr Oliver Mtukudzi Rest In Power. Till we meet again.
Tuku Fan and Friend
Tuku is gone but his music will live with us forever. Like the greats who went before him, Tuku now belongs to the ages. Thank you Tuku. Mafunga Dande vakuru. Dzoka Uyamwe is probably one of the toughest songs to listen to now that Tuku is gone. Rest In Peace Samanyanga.
Here’s a small sample of online tributes to Oliver Mtukudzi. The man was deeply loved.