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Oliver Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe’s Afro-jazz legend, buried

Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Zimbabwe’s most renowned musicians, died aged 66 after a four-decade career and was buried on January 27 at his rural home in Madziwa, Mashonaland Central province.

Mtukudzi was the father of five children and had two grandchildren. Two of his children are also musicians. His son Sam Mtukudzi, a successful musician in his own right, died in a car accident in March 2010 and in 2013, he released an album titled “Sarawoga”, in tribute to his son. Mtukudzi was born in a family of six.

He was the first musician to be declared a national hero. His burial was as per the wishes of his family. It was  was attended by thousands who came to respect the music icon. Politicians such as  Defence and War Veterans Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa and MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe were in attendance.

Entertainers such as Alick Macheso, Thomas Mapfumo, Neria’s lead actress Jesesi Mungoshi and poet Albert Nyathi were also in attendance.

Mtukudzi came to prominence in the 1970s as one of voices of the revolution fighting the then Rhodesia white-minority rule. His lyrics often carried social messages about HIV/Aids and coded political commentary. His 2001 song ‘Wasakara’, meaning “You Are Too Old”, was banned as it was seen as a reference to Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe, who was ousted 16 years later aged 93.

The singer and guitarist mixed several different styles to create his own distinctive Afro-jazz sound, known to his fans as “Tuku Music”. In a long career he released 67 albums and toured the world.

US-based Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo, with whom he started his career prior to independence in 1980, paid tribute to a “great musician”.

“He was a freedom fighter – that’s what I can say about him,” Mapfumo told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme. “I loved his voice and the way he used to write his music. He was such a great inspiration to those who were upcoming.”

Mtukudzi performed one of famous tracks ‘Neria’, about the strength of women and how they should take their place and not feel inferior to men, for the BBC in 2009:

Affectionately known as “Tuku”, his name is trending on Twitter as people pay tribute to him. But as Zimbabweans still come together to mourn the musician.

Oliver Mtukudzi’s last album was filled with emotion. Called ‘Hanya’Ga’, which translates as “Concern” in the Shona language, it came out last February – three months after Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, was ousted.

It felt like he had taken his gloves off and was able to express his real concerns about the country’s future. From child marriage to the economic meltdown and worries about a lack of concern for human life – he tackled it all.

It was a rallying call for unity among Zimbabweans – a wake-up call to do something to stop the rot that had characterised the country for many years. It was also a letter to the government – a cry for help.

Mutukudzi’s career spanned more than 30 years and he was known for his social and political lyrics, sung in three of his country’s languages – Shona, Ndebele and English. Nicknamed “Tuku” Mtukudzi produced music that featured traditional Shona instruments such as mbira and marimba.

The music is part of a genre dubbed “Chimurenga”, after the Shona term for Zimabbwe’s liberation war against the brutal racist white minority government in the 1970s.

Mtukudzi was a prolific musician, putting out over 60 albums in his 45-year career. His songs were a distinctive blend of Zimbabwean and South African rhythms that were known as “Tuku music.”

News of Mtukudzi’s death spread quickly and sparked an outpouring of tributes online, with Zimbabwe’s government expressing its “heartfelt condolences” to his family. “Zimbabwe music is poorer without our music legend,” Zimbabwe’s information ministry tweeted.

“We’ve lost an icon,” wrote Zimbabwean lawmaker Temba Mliswa on Twitter.

The ruling African National Congress in neighboring South Africa also tweeted: “Rest in peace.”

Mtukudzi grew up in Highfield, a poor neighborhood in Salisbury (modern-day Harare) in Southern Rhodesia. He began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo and fellow legendary guitarist James Chimombe. They were given the rare opportunity by Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo, an African nationalist and music promotor, who provided money and resources to the group. He allowed them to perform at Club Mutanga (Pungwe) which, at the time, was the only night club available for blacks under Rhodesia’s policy of segregation. Their single Dzandimomotera went gold and Tuku’s first album followed, which was also a major success. Mtukudzi is also a contributor to Mahube, Southern Africa’s “supergroup”.

With his husky voice, Mtukudzi has become the most recognised voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond.

He also incorporates elements of different musical traditions, giving his music a distinctive style, known to fans as Tuku Music. Mtukudzi has had a number of tours around the world. He has been on several tours in the UK, US and Canada to perform for large audiences. In 2017 Mtukudzi entertained guests at the wedding of Zimbabwean businessman Wicknell Chivayo.

Discography

Albums

  1. 1978 Ndipeiwo Zano (re-released 2000)
  2. 1979 Chokwadi Chichabuda
  3. 1979 Muroi Ndiani?
  4. 1980 Africa (re-released 2000)
  5. 1981 Shanje
  6. 1981 Pfambi
  7. 1982 Maungira
  8. 1982 Please Ndapota
  9. 1983 Nzara
  10. 1983 Oliver’s Greatest Hits
  11. 1984 Hwema Handirase
  12. 1985 Mhaka
  13. 1986 Gona
  14. 1986 Zvauya Sei?
  15. 1987 Wawona
  16. 1988 Nyanga Nyanga
  17. 1988 Strange, Isn’t It?’
  18. 1988 Sugar Pie
  19. 1989 Grandpa Story
  20. 1990 Chikonzi
  21. 1990 Pss Pss Hallo!
  22. 1990 Shoko
  23. 1991 Mutorwa
  24. 1992 Rombe
  25. 1992 Rumbidzai Jehova
  26. 1992 Neria Soundtrack’
  27. 1993 Son of Africa
  28. 1994 Ziwere MuKobenhavn
  29. 1995 Was My Child
  30. 1996 Svovi yangu
  31. 1995 The Other Side: Live in Switzerland
  32. 1995 Ivai Navo
  33. 1997 Ndega Zvangu (re-released 2001)
  34. 1997 Chinhamwe
  35. 1998 Dzangu Dziye
  36. 1999 Tuku Music
  37. 2000 Paivepo
  38. 2001 Neria
  39. 2001 Bvuma (Tolerance)
  40. 2002 Shanda soundtrack
  41. 2002 Vhunze Moto
  42. 2003 Shanda (Alula Records)
  43. 2003 Tsivo (Revenge)
  44. 2004 Greatest Hits Tuku Years
  45. 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1991–1997
  46. 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1984–1991
  47. 2005 Nhava (Tolerance)
  48. 2006 Wonai
  49. 2007 Tsimba Itsoka
  50. 2008 Dairai (Believe)
  51. 2010 Rudaviro
  52. 2010 Kutsi Kwemoyo (compilation)[7]
  53. 2011 Rudaviro
  54. 2011 Abi’angu (Duets of My Time)
  55. 2012 Sarawoga — Sarawoga laments the losses that the legend has had to endure in his life, not least the loss of life. Thus he has been left ‘alone’ in a sense, hence the title Sarawoga (left alone).
  56. 2014 Mukombe Wemvura
  57. 2016 God Bless You – The Gospel Collection
  58. 2016 Eheka Nhai Yahwe!
  59. 2018 han’a (Concern)

Contributing artist

  1. 1996 The Rough Guide to the Music of Zimbabwe (World Music Network)
  2. 1999 Unwired: Acoustic Music from Around the World (World Music Network)
  3. 2000 Unwired: Africa (World Music Network)

 

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