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Music is my life:Tuku

SINCE 1975 when he started recording, Oliver Mtukudzi has produced over 50 albums. His music has evolved from the exclusive use of modern electrical instruments to African traditional instruments like the mbira and marimba although his acoustic guitar still carries the Tuku Music trademark.

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Mtukudzi’s music has always been characterised by innuendos. He believes the power of art is the ability to communicate figuratively and still be understood universally.

But the overriding theme in all his music is self-discipline – an outstanding human quality in Mtukudzi himself.

There is a relationship and never conflict between Mtukudzi and his music.

Music is his life and daily life experiences make his music. Tuku’s philosophy is that as long as mankind exists, there is always something to talk about.

And if there is something to talk about, there is always something to sing about.

Because of his consistency in tackling socio-economic and political issues, he endeared himself to Zimbabweans who regard him not only as an entertainer but mentor and role model.

Zimbabwean artists, more so musicians, have for long been accused of incorrigibility and a laissez-faire attitude towards HIV and Aids while the pandemic was wiping out entire musical bands.

Mtukudzi was among the first artists who came out strong making public commitment to support initiatives to combat HIV and Aids. Mtukudzi’s own sibling, Robert, a musician who played alongside his brother died of Aids.

While artists were generally still cocooned in self-denial of the debilitating disease, Mtukudzi publicly disclosed his brother’s cause of death and implored the nation to fight the HIV and Aids stigma which he believed was the reason for self-denial among the infected and the affected.

His music and short films combine story-telling, entertainment and education. When he sings about polygamy, which is a sub-culture in African society, he advises against the risks of HIV and Aids.

When he sings about teenage wayward behaviour and the use of drugs he also advises against the risks of HIV and Aids. Even feature films, among them the award winning Neria (1991), (where he acted one of the lead roles), which is about inheritance controversies, communicates some of the values without which dysfunctional families stand the risk of HIV and Aids.

Was My Child and Jit including his latest film Ndichirimudiki (2008) can be categorised as edu-tainment – a combination of education and entertainment. The plots centre on daily life experiences.
Mtukudzi has worked with children, whose parents have died from Aids, to produce a CD on HIV and Aids, that seeks to enhance HIV and Aids awareness. His distinguished work has been acknowledged through countless awards in Zimbabwe and abroad. The Zimbabwe government honoured him as a Music Ambassador while the University of Zimbabwe and the Women’s University in Africa conferred him with honorary degrees in the Arts.

Mtukudzi founded and operates an arts academy in Norton near Harare called Pakare Paye Arts Centre.

The centre has taken talented school leavers off the streets to be developed in music, drama, film, story-telling, poetry, etc. The centre hosts a variety of events among major festivals. Mtukudzi (60) is married to Daisy.

His children Selmor and the late Sam took after their father’s career in music and have become notable names in Zimbabwe’s arts sector. Mtukudzi, who is affectionately known by his legion of fans as Tuku, short for Mtukudzi, was born in the capital’s ghetto neighbourhood of Highfield in a musical family.

His parents and siblings were singers.

The legacy of music in the Mtukudzi family has been handed over from one generation to another.

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