Legendary Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Africa’s most renowned artists passed on in hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe on the 23rd of January, a year after legendary Hugh Masekela.
The 66-year-old whose unique Afro-jazz style put him and his country, Zimbabwe, on the map globally, suffered from an undisclosed long-term illness before his passing. His fans who referred to him as ‘Tuku’ and his style as ‘Tuku Music’ were shocked at the sudden news of his passing.
Social media has been awash with tributes and celebrations of his life, his music and his achievements.
Oliver Mtukudzi was born in Highfield, Harare and began performing in 1977. Singing in the dominant Shona language as well as Ndebele and English, Tuku is one of the most popular voices to emerge from Africa.
Tuku will greatly be remembered for his music; with a 4 decade-long career and a discography spanning over 60 albums, his music will forever remain a soundtrack to our youth.
The singer/songwriter who played the guitar was known for his socially-conscious lyrics which sought to liberate Zimbabwe in the early 70s, speak on the AIDS pandemic in Africa throughout the 80s, 90s and early 2000s and evoke political awareness during President Mugabe’s tenure.
In February of 2018, Mtukudzi released what is now his final album, dubbed ‘Hanya’Ga’. Here, he expressed his concerns about Zimbabwe’s future after the ousting of President Mugabe, addressing issues such as the economic state of his country, early marriages, polygamy and the ensuing political upheaval. Moreover, it was a call for unity from his fellow countrymen.
Speaking to the BBC’s Focus on Africa, Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo describes Tuku as a freedom fighter. “He was a freedom fighter – that’s what I can say about him,”
His social consciousness, through his music, allowed him to participate in many humanitarian projects throughout Southern Africa including his work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the Eastern and Southern Africa region.
Tuku also contributed to the film industry by starring in several productions and writing several film soundtracks including the movie ‘Neria’ in 1993 which he starred in and wrote the soundtrack for, Sarawoga in 2009 which he wrote the soundtrack for and 2012’s Nzou NeMhuru Mudanga, a theatrical performance of both Tuku and his late son.
For his work for his country and his continent, Oliver Mtukudzi was awarded numerously in his country and abroad. Some of the most notable awards include his KORA Award for Best African male artist and Lifetime Achievement Award in August 2003, an award from the University of Zimbabwe and The International Council of Africana Womanism (ICAW) Award: recognizing his role in uplifting African women through his music in 2010 and an Honorary Doctorate from the International Institute of Philanthropy in 2014.
Tuku was the father of 5 children, 2 of whom were musicians including his late son, Sam Mtukudzi. Sam passed on after a car accident, a few weeks after staging Nzou NeMhuru Mudanga alongside Tuku.
We will continue to celebrate this legend for his music, his work and his true African spirit that will live on, even after his demise.
Mtukudzi was laid to rest on Sunday, the 27th, at his rural home in Madziwa.