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Musician, Philanthropist, Zimbabwean Icon : Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi.

If you asked most Zimbabweans which artist they would like to perform at their wedding, the answer will most likely be Oliver Mtukudzi. 

Tuku is considered to be Zimbabwe’s biggest artist, and one of the most influential artists in South Africa. 

Mtukudzi died in Harare after a long battle with diabetes, exactly the same day as his friend, the musician Hugh Masekela, who passed away on 23 January 2018.

Many people fell in love with his experimental spirit, his sound dubbed ‘Tuku Music’ was a blend of southern African music traditions, including mbira, mbaqanga, jit and the traditional drumming styles of the Korekore.

Indeed, even his journey to learn how to play the guitar was through experimenting with different sounds: 

I looked for a sound the guitar couldn’t make in a guitar – that is how I learned to play the guitar. Professional guitarist at the time use to laugh at me. I used to look for a mbira (music instrument) on the guitar strings. I’ve always been experimental. But it was a blessing in disguise because I went on to pioneer a sound that was later labelled Tuku music.

Activist

Mtukudzi was not just a good singer but his music always had an underlying revolutionary message. In his song “Todii” (What shall we do?), Mtukudzi reflects on the challenge faced by communities as a result of the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The song praises those who take care of those suffering from HIV, but at the same time admonishes those in the government who are responsible for allowing the situation to have gotten as bad as it did.  

The song Neria which is still considered one of the greatest Zimbabwean soundtracks, was written by Mtukudzi for the film of the same name. Mtukudzi crafted the soundtrack detailing the tribulations of a widow trying to survive past patriarchy in all its forms.

His 2001 song Wasakara, meaning “You Are Too Old”, was banned as it was seen as a reference to leader Robert Mugabe, who was ousted 16 years later aged 93. This song represented many Zimbabweans feelings to the former President, many praise Mugabe for leading Zimbabwe’s fight for independence, but his inability to leave office was very controversial.  

Mtukudzi is one of Africa’s finest musicians and the revolutionary zeal his music contains will create more Africans who will shape the planet to be the most prosperous in the world. 

Update:

On Saturday, his coffin was taken in a funeral procession through the national stadium in the capital Harare.

It was then was transported by helicopter to his home village, north of Harare.