Dr Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi (Nzou Samanyanga) OBITUARY
It is with a sad loss that a national icon who for decades has worked and tirelessly played critical roles promoting development using arts and culture across all the boarders has passed on. Born on the 22nd of September 1952 in Highfield, Harare, Oliver died on the 23rd of January 2019 at the age of 66 of diabetes after a short illness in the Avenues, Harare. The tears streams down the faces of many. His death comes after the region and world at large is still morning Tuku’s long-time friend and South African Jazz-musician, Hugh Masekela, who passed on the 23rd of January 2018.
By Simbarashe Mudhokwani _ Independent Development Researcher/Consultant
Dr Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi well known as “The Superstar” was of the Nzou Samanyanga Totemic group well associated with the Korekore dialect, a sub language variety of Shona Language. Tuku’s singing and accent in music did not hide such dialect from it. The language he used in singing was a carrier of culture and a medium of communicating fully his thoughts, experiences and was very clear in expressing his views. That has made his music original and purely Zimbabwean. He never deviated to become influenced by other musicians and acculturate but rather reflected positively of the Zimbabwe culture and what it is made of. Quite excellent and stable man, mature, calm and composed, that is how he was.
Going back the memory lanes, Tuku established the Black Spirits in 1978 and released the album Ndipeiwo Zano in the same year, after briefly working in 1977 with the Wagon of Wheels, together with Thomas Mapfumo.
Testimonials from (Pindula news) has it that “Thomas Mapfumo once narrated how they met Oliver Mtukudzi and joined up together:
“I was coming from Mutare myself where we were contracted at a hotel in Dangamvura. When I returned to Harare, that’s when I met Oliver. He was practicing at James Bond’s place because this guy used to own equipment, so a lot of youngsters used to go there just to practice music. After I met Oliver, we had a short tour together. I was already singing my Shona music, and he was playing something strange… he was playing the guitar, singing a song like… we used to call the song Green for Go and Red for Stop.
“I said to him, ‘you guy, why don’t you sing in your mother’s language?’ He was a good guy, he took my advice. He even asked for one of my songs Tamba Zvako Marujata (Rova Ngoma Mutavara). It was a traditional tune, which I used to sing myself. He came to me and asked if he could record the music and I said you can go on and record it. It came out beautifully and everybody liked it, and I also thought it was a good song.”
The two have been together regardless of perceptions painted in media. In justifying the good relations, is the Big Bira held on 28 April 2018 in the Glamis Arena, Harare where Mapfumo shared the stage with Oliver Mtukudzi and many other local artists, 14 years after Mapfumo had left the country to leave in the USA without returning home. This was a clear demonstration of good relations that existed.
The following constitute some of the roles that Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi Played during his lifetime:
- Artist, musician, cultural ambassador
Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi was an artist. He worked greatly mainly in the music sub-sector of the entire arts as an industry and recorded 66 albums since 1978. He was a singer and songwriter talented to work with almost all the artists both males and females justifying that he didn’t encourage any gender disparities to exist. He worked with them locally, within the region and internationally. He also worked with all the artists across other arts disciplines as literary artists, fine artists, fashion designers, filmmakers, performing artists and sculptures. Tuku interacted closely with almost every artist regardless of age, color of creed. He has toured the region and performed in many festivals internationally. With his music, Tuku has toured almost all the continents; Africa, Europe, America, Asia, Australia. This work he has done has been an ambassadorial work for Zimbabwe. He work positively portrayed Zimbabwe’s image and raised its flag high. What he did all his life, not many even in politics or other sectors might have the opportunity to do so, hence his words:
“Respect ma-artists nekuti anoenda kure nekunzvimbo dzamusingagone kusvika achinomiririra nyika” (Please respect the artists because they went far and to many countries where you are unable to go representing Zimbabwe).
Oliver Mtukudzi has played a critical role as the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF where he worked closely in promoting the rights and interest of children. This he did through making use of music in denouncing rights violation of children and he went further to play critical role in 2010 ‘Day of the African Child’ commemorations” where he donated one of his songs to UNICEF as part of working and dedicating it to children.
- A Human Rights Activist
Oliver Mtukudzi did a theme song for a film “Neria” and a music album that followed in 2001. The film written by Tsitsi Dangarembga and directed by Godwin Mawuru in 1992, tells the story of an urban woman, Neria, who represents the plight of African women and the struggles that they undergo through dealing with inheritance matters within families/communities as a whole. The film starred by Jesesi Mungoshi, as she pointed “contributed to the introduction of the Inheritance Law by the Parliament of Zimbabwe” and the music part by Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi, reflected that the kind of work he did through music help to demonstrate his effective abilities to work in teamwork successful projects, and a clear reflection of his activism in matters that promote the rights of citizens, women in particular. Personalities as that of Tuku are rare to find worldwide as promiscuity and casual sex, abuse and exploitation of women is rampant to women perpetuated by men as opposed to denouncing such rights violations.
- Founder of Pakare Paye Arts Center and Solo Festival
He founded Pakare Paye Arts Centre and this Centre has went further to lubricate the operations and functions of the arts industry in Zimbabwe through providing space and resources for a number of artistic and other non-artistic functions. The building complex is named House of Tuku Music, an idea that is sustainable for the entire arts, culture and heritage sector stationed in Norton, Zimbabwe. Tuku’s investment for the arts and culture through Pakare Paye is essential in having a sound, and bankable infrastructure that is standing to be used as an example which could attract investment for the sector, funding and support from banks and education partners who are active contributors to the cultural life of the country as a large.
Being founded by Oliver Mtukudzi in 2003 for purposes of developing and nurturing young talent, Pakare Paye Arts Centre has and is still working with children and the artists to develop and nurture aspirations and talents in the music, dance, drama, poetry and storytelling for artists. New art creations are found at Pakare Paye Art Centre and this even facilitated the incubation of other projects as the Pakare Paye Solo Festival managed by Watson Chidzomba and that received support from the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust and SPAR Guild of Grocers as the main sponsors of the Solo festival Spar in the years 2010, 2011 to 2013. Oliver has been such a driver and believed in others by creating opportunities and chances for the fellow artists and musicians. In this regard, The Solo Festival founded by Oliver Mtukudzi was created with an idea of providing a forum for individual artists to develop self-confidence and master the art of performing and entertaining. The Solo Festival started under the sponsorship of Oliver Mtukudzi around 2006 and is a clear demonstration of philanthropic work that he did for the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe. Oliver’s vision ensured the promotion of empowerment of youth and arts education; worked in the promotion of national pride, identity and heritage; while nurturing talents, developing it and showcasing.
- Oliver Mtukudzi as a mentor and a unifier
He collaborated and featured with a number of artists beyond the Zimbabwean boarders who include the Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ringo Madlingozi, Joss Stone, Louis Mhlanga, Hugh Masekela and went further to offer a strong mentorship to the upcoming generations and collaborated with other established artists. Not even a number could be quantified on those that he worked with considering that the schools programme through the Pakare Paye Solo Festival could take in over 350 students for the festival. It is through these platforms that Gary Tight become known when he was performing as a Solo during the festival and the two have went on to do a video recording together, as a true testimony of not having boundaries that Samanyanga had in working in the industry. Munyaradzi Maturutse, Wink D, Aleck Macheso, Suluman Chimbetu, Edith WeUtonga, Munyaradzi Nyamarebvu, Dominic Benhura, Daniel Karavina, are only a drop in the ocean of all those that have worked in one way or the other with Tuku. Many other artists and individuals have testified the spirit of bringing everyone together that Samanyanga had;
Other artists had this to say:
Aleck Macheso–Musician “It’s touching and I have nothing to do”
Albert Nyathi– Poet “its difficult to accept… I have no words”
Tatenda Mahachi– Musician “He was a father, he was a friend”.
Edith WeUTonga-Musician “When I always would call to see him…he was always waiting for me…and in my career from my first album to my third album he was always been there to advise, to tell me kuti industry yakamira sei…I think we don’t have such icons who can give you their time, who can give you their advise for free.”
Bob Nyabinde-Musician “…he was a self-less person, Oliver was unique in that he accommodated everybody and he didn’t hesitate to help where he felt help was needed…he once told me helping another artist does not take your talent off… he was easy to work with but principled”
Innocent Nkululeko Dube–IYASA “He was the most approachable artist…the message he always give was that you are never bigger than who you are, and where you come from…he cuts across religion, cuts across tribe, cuts across race he was just a global person…”
The Government of Zimbabwe had this to say through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services conveyed by Cde Monica Mutsvangwa-
“…this is not only a loss to the Mtukudzi Family but a loss to the country, the whole of Africa and humanity at large, through his music Tuku touched millions of hearts around the globe. Dr Tuku Mtukudzi, sang about love, he sang about social justice, social trials and tribulations of human existence. Tuku music is a global symbol of arts and culture…Tuku has been the faithful ambassador for our country”
- Strategist in formulation of National Strategies for Developing the Arts
He was a guest speaker during the 26-27 October 2011 in Murehwa for the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe organized National Arts And Culture Sector Strategy Dialogue. In his address, Oliver Mtukudzi focused on the importance of stakeholders’ attitudes in moulding the development of creative industries as they defined a people’s identity and culture.
He articulated the role of arts in nation building and bringing healing rather than serving partisan interests. It was therefore important for stakeholders to ensure that issues to do with developing the sector embraced national interest. He implored all present to give their best in mapping the way for the advancement of the sector. In this matter he interacted with other artists, promoted the encouraged peace, dialogue, social cohesion for ensuring achievement of national priorities and development through arts and culture.
Even though Dr Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi passed on after his efforts got recognized through a number of accolades that he had, such as:
- 1985–1988: One of The Best Selling Artists in Zimbabwe.
- 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 Merit 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 December 2003
- NAMA Award 2003: Best Group/Artist.
- NAMA Award 2004: Best Group/Artist.
- NAMA Award 2005: National Arts Personality of the Year.
- NAMA Award 2006: Outstanding Album (NHAVA).
- 2006: ZIMA (Best Music Ringing Tone Handiro Dambudziko).
- 2006: ZIMA (Music Ambassador).
- NAMA Award 2007: Best Musician/Group.
- 2007:Cultural Ambassador – Zimbabwe Tourism Association.
- NAMA Award 2008: (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 recognised his son’s achievements in music.
- 2010: University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and The International Council of Africana Womanism (ICAW) Award: recognition of his luminary role in uplifting African women through his artistic work – music and a diversity of art forms – offered as community development at his arts academy at Pakare Paye in Norton.
- 2011: Titled Zimbabwe’s first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
- 2011: 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. (The award is what the Knighthood is to England).
- 2014 Honorary Doctorate (PHD) International Institute of Philanthropy.
- 2014 Honorary Doctorate from Great Zimbabwe University (GZU). Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology & Choreography
..the nation could have still been benefiting from his exposure in the entire arts, culture and heritage industry. This is to point to the fact that, the nation has projects as the ZimDigital project with which inputs from such personalities as Tuku was to make it more sound in its roll out and programming. The expansion drive and the entire industry required inputs of such icons. This is not to leave out his lifetime dedication, which he had of working towards continued professionalization and growing the entire arts and culture for Zimbabwe
Dr Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi’s role in society was positioned to depict and celebrate life. To reflect and correct failures, to encourage and advance positiveness, to improve construction and grant opportunities and chances to others, accept and mold, model and move ahead. Tuku was a bona-fide Zimbabwean who experienced a different test of times including losing his son Sam Mtukudzi on 15 March 2010 but he was not heart broken or lost hope, he soldiered on with life not mentioning the huddles of facing piracy and infringement of his Intellectual Property that he faced on the other hand of working in the arts and culture sector.
Some of the albums include;
- 1978 Ndipeiwo Zano (re-released 2000)
- 1979 Chokwadi Chichabuda
- 1979 Muroi Ndiani?
- 1980 Africa (re-released 2000)
- 1981 Shanje
- 1981 Pfambi
- 1982 Maungira
- 1982 Please Ndapota
- 1983 Nzara
- 1983 Oliver’s Greatest Hits
- 1984 Hwema Handirase
- 1985 Mhaka
- 1986 Gona
- 1986 Zvauya Sei?
- 1987 Wawona
- 1988 Nyanga Nyanga
- 1988 Strange, Isn’t It?’
- 1988 Sugar Pie
- 1989 Grandpa Story
- 1990 Chikonzi
- 1990 Pss Pss Hallo!
- 1991 Shoko
- 1991 Mutorwa
- 1992 Rombe
- 1992 Rumbidzai Jehova
- 1992 Neria Soundtrack’
- 1993 Son of Africa
- 1994 Ziwere MuKobenhavn
- 1995 Was My Child
- 1996 Svovi yangu
- 1995 The Other Side: Live in Switzerland
- 1995 Ivai Navo
- 1997 Ndega Zvangu (re-released 2001)
- 1997 Chinhamwe
- 1998 Dzangu Dziye
- 1999 Tuku Music**
- 2000 Paivepo
- 2001 Neria
- 2001 Bvuma (Tolerance)
- 2002 Shanda soundtrack
- 2002 Vhunze Moto
- 2003 Shanda (Alula Records)
- 2003 Tsivo (Revenge)
- 2004 Greatest Hits Tuku Years
- 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1991–1997
- 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1984–1991
- 2005 Nhava(Tolerance)
- 2006 Wonai
- 2007 Tsimba Itsoka
- 2008 Dairai (Believe)
- 2009 Chinhambwe
- 2010 Rudaviro
- 2010 Kutsi Kwemoyo (compilation)
- 2012 Rudaviro
- 2011 Abi’angu (Duets of my time)
- 2013 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).
- 2014 Mukombe Wemvura
- 2016 God Bless You – The Gospel Collection
- 2016 Eheka Nhai Yahwe!
Many words cannot give us back what everyone of us so desired, neither this piece of writing could it assist but only the time granted to Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi is the only way we could celebrate. As agreed already Tuku’s “music never dies and the rich legacy he has left with us is here to stay for generations,”
Rest in Eternal Peace Samanyanga, Nzou,
Rest in Peace Oliver Mtukudzi,
Rest in Peace Tuku
Keep sharing, stay motivated…