By Takudzwa Kadzura
If you cannot touch their hearts then you are not an artist’ Oliver Mtukudzi said to his late son. This was at a concert and he was passing on the ‘Black Spirits’ band button stick to Sam during his Perekedza Mwana tour, how exemplary!
‘Tuku cannot die’ I said to myself immediately after reading a message confirming his untimely departure. Indeed the life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living and Tuku is a permanent imprint and unfading graffiti on African music.
‘Hazvitidzimbe nyama zvinotidzimba pakati pehana’ echoed Mtukudzi in his priceless duet with dancehall chanter Winky D. Every music lover is singing along the same sentiments. This is the life of a Zimbabwean music legend that conquered the African safari and beyond. The musical fraternity has been robbed of a gaffer and left in overwhelming dismay.
1952 marked the just ended phenomenal journey of a widely admired music personality all over the world. Oliver Mtukudzi was a Zimbabwean artist, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Southern Africa region. Tuku is also one of the most celebrated cultural icons of all time. The husky voiced legend was a member of the Wagon Wheels band in the 1970s alongside Thomas Mapfumo before he started on a bright solo career with his Black Spirits.
Samanyanga commands a huge and devoted fan base beyond the Zimbabwean borders owing to his ability in blending several African genres hence a distinctive style. Tuku was well travelled and has had successful tours in the UK, US and Canada. Oliver Mtukudzi also exceptionally managed 66 albums distancing himself from ordinary players in the game.
Writing on his awards would probably need a full article, amongst them includes M-Net best soundtrack for Neria, several NAMA awards, MTN SAMA, ZIMA, KORA. Tuku has honorary degrees from University of Zimbabwe, Women’s university and Great Zimbabwe university flowering his iconic journey.
He was also recognized in the Forbes 2011 top 40 most powerful celebrities in Africa in a list that included Akon, Chinua Achebe and Didier Drogba. Dr Tuku was married to Daisy was a father of 5 children and amongst is the late Sam and Selmor who are musicians as well.
Outside family, Mtukudzi fathered several upcoming artists and he owned Pakare Paye Arts centre in Norton to develop and nurture young talent. Tuku has countless collaborations with contemporary artists such as Exq, Winky D, Jah prayzah, Gary Tight amongst a host and these have all been successful on the market.
His vocals have also been reproduced in hip hop by artists like Hillzy and Holy Ten. The afro-jazz legend has clearly been the face of music in Zimbabwe.
Samanyanga was a gifted lyricist of both English and Shona. He aptly communicated social issues in his songs, addressing both political and socio-economic themes. He condemned violence, corruption and other social vices. Tuku was a wordsmith who managed to speak and represent the voiceless through his music.
He continues to inspire several artists because of his everlasting content such that songs and albums from the 90s are still being played on radio and parties. The writer is fully aware that stating out his best songs is highly subjective and controversial since the legend has multiple of them to accommodate every type of an audience, however these are some of the hits,- Bvuma, Manyemwe, Street Kids, Neria, Tozeza Baba, Zimbabwe, Mbabvu Yangu and several others.
Dr Mtukudzi’s untimely death has caught us unaware and many across the continent are struggling to come to terms with the sad reality. Politicians, socialites, church leaders and other sectors have expressed their shock and forwarded their condolences to his family left behind.
Fellow artists such as Macheso and Cassper Nyovest have also honored the life of Tuku amongst a thousand that are coming through. The government of Zimbabwe has unanimously declared Tuku a national hero.
We will forever love and celebrate the game changing, inspirational and classic journey of Samanyanga. ‘Rufu ndimadzongonyedze’ said Tuku himself but again ‘ tuku cannot die’.
His music is a gift to Africa and as Zimbabweans we are proud to have produced and housed a great man.