By Lincoln Majogo
The announcement of the passing on of Afro Jazz’s legend doctor Oliver Mtukudzi on the 23rd of January 2019 came not only as a stunning shock to many but as a moment of reflection and reverence towards the works of the late doctor Oliver Mtukudzi. What was it that made Tuku a legendary icon well respected across all boarders and sectors of society and at large the African continent. What was it that made the legend unanimously declared national hero? An icon of African heritage and culture, a human rights activist, a businessman, and a philanthropist. Tukus death left a permanent legacy of uniqueness and African beauty. We explore briefly into the life of a legend, Doctor Oliver Mtukudzi.
Birth And Rise
Born in 1952, Tuku grew up in Highfield, a neighbourhood in the Zimbabwe capital city, Harare. Tuku joined the wagon wheels in 1977 alongside Thomas Mapfumo and fellow guitarist James Chimombe. It is said Tuku and his band faced huge financial constraints due to the colonial laws that suppressed black voices especially those that promoted black consciousness.
Some of the repressive laws barred black musicians from performing in certain bars with the exception of a club called Club Mutanga[PUNGWE] The crew nevertheless continued their pursuit of afro-centric music before releasing his debut album titled ‘DZANDIMOMOTERA’ which was dubbed a huge success. Who could have seen the rise and rise of the young man from the ghetto with a husky voice at a time who for then playing the guitars was regarded as ‘Hurombe’ by many? Tuku nevertheless pursued the path of musIc using it as an indispensable tool to reach across and spread the gospel of hope to the hopeless. Not only was Tuku’s music poetic but also reflections of the problems of his day. One of his familiar hits
“Todii” released at the time when HIV and AIDS-ravaged across the families of Zimbabwe captured the pains and the struggles pf HIV and aids patients and sent an appeal to families to regularly go for pre-marital counselling.
Blood tests and health checks. Not only did Tuku champion and spread messages of hope but also shunned domestic violence. His hit ‘TOZEZA BABA’ captures at the heart of domestic violence its effects upon children and family relations.
The hit ‘NERIA’ captures the struggles faced by women when their husbands die and send a message of courage to victims of such predicaments. Tukus music continued to dominate Afrocentric arenas leaving a permanent legacy of originality and African cultural pride. Embracing diversity, Tuku incorporated Shona, Ndebele and different other languages that connected well with the people of Zimbabwe and those around the world at large.
Known by many locals as a music hero, Tukus closest associates and cronies describe him as a humble man who related with any person despite age, race, color, skin or nationality. Tuku performed on several tours in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, countries which all had huge crowd turnouts. In 2017 Mtukudzi performed at the wedding of Zimbabwean business tycoon Wicknell Chivayo.
Achievements And Accolades
In his entire lifetime, Tuku left a legacy of 66 albums. His debut album Dzandimomotera came in 1978 which is dubbed as a huge debut success. Tuku didn’t stop there, he relentlessly continued to produce more and more albums with songs filled with hope, inspiration, and wisdom. His songs are greatly known for preserving and protecting pan Africanist cultural values and norms and breaking boundaries of imperious orthodox traditional stigma. At the time of his death, Tuku was the United Nations Ambassador of Goodwill in Africa, a position he held since 2011. Tuku left a vestige of internationally and nationally recognized awards.
His awards include:
- one of the best-selling artists in Zimbabwe 1985-1988
- KORA Award for best arrangement in 2002 for ‘Ndakuwara’
- 2002 SAMA Finalist [best Traditional/African Adult Contemporary DVD] live at the Cape Town Jazz Festival, National Arts Merits Awards[NAMA] in 2002 and 2004 for Best Group/Male Vocalist
- KORA award for Best African Male Artist and Lifetime Achievement Award in August 2003,
- Reel Award Winner for Best African Language in 2003
- An Honorary Degree from the University of Zimbabwe in 2003
- NAMA Award 2003
- NAMA Award 2004
- NAMA Award 2005
- National Arts Personality of The Year
- NAMA Award Outstanding Album[NHAVA]
- 2006 ZIMA [Best Music Ringing Tone] ‘Handiro Dambudziko’
- 2006 ZIMA(Music Ambassador)
- NAMA Award 2007 Best Musician
- 2007 Cultural Ambassador
- 2008 NAMA Award Outstanding Musician
- Honorary Msc (Fine Arts) degree awarded by the Women’s University in Africa in 2009
- M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992, for Neria
- 2010 MTN SAMA Awards, 2010 University of Zimbabwe[UZ]
- The International Council of African Womanism Award
- 2011 Titled Zimbabwe’s First UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa
- 2011 Mtukudzi was honoured by the government of Italy with the prestigious Cavaliere of the order of merit award in recognition of his work as an international musician
- 2014 Honorary Doctorate(PhD) International Institute of Philanthropy, 2014 Honorary Doctorate from Great Zimbabwe University[GZU]. Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology and Geography. His songs touched across to every part of the society, the young and the old found meaning and insight in all of his songs.
MARRIAGE & CHILDREN.
Tuku’s first wife was Melody Murape. The two first met whilst melody was attending a concert by Oliver Mtukudzi and they fell in love. In 1979, the two tied the wedlock and stayed together until a divorce in 1993. Mtukudzi then married daisy whom he stayed with until her death. Mtukudzi was a father of 5 children and had 2 grandchildren to his name. Some of his children include Sam (late), Selmor and Sandra. In 2013 Tuku released an album titled ‘Sarawoga’ in tribute of his son, the late Sam Mtukudzi who perished in a road accident in 2010.
Sickness, Death, and Burial
Tuku died on the 23rd of January 2019 after his long battle with diabetes. The decision to bestow the National Hero Status by the Zimbabwean Government was unanimous with the president His Excellency Cde E.D Mnangagwa paying his tribute to the Mtukudzi family at their family home in Madziva. Upon his death over 100 musicians in Zimbabwe volunteered to sing for the cheerful crowds at the National sports stadium in Harare. Tuku is survived by his wife and 4 children.