The late music superstar music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi’s music has, in the past few days following his sudden death, been a constant feature in vehicles, homes, shops and beerhalls signalling the massive impact the man has had.
By Kennedy Nyavaya/Sindiso Dube
Tuku’s death is trending virtually on all social media just as it has become dominant in real-life conversation and that is a strong sign of an admired legend whose life is nothing short of archetypal.
When Sungura ace Alick Macheso emerged from the entrance of Avenues Clinic in Harare, where Mtukudzi breathed his last on Wednesday afternoon, the grief that eclipsed his face was telling.
A music star in his own right, Macheso, who was set to go into the studio with the legendary Tuku this year, appeared to struggle accepting the latter’s sudden death and that was the case for fellow musicians, hospital staff, passers-by and journalists that milled outside the health facility.
“I am at a loss for words. I was looking forward to doing projects with him this year, now it cannot be done. I am hurt just as the nation and world is,” said Macheso, battling tears.
Had anyone known the tragedy would strike now, artistes would have fast-tracked their intended projects with Tuku who in his last days had taken the grandmaster role on the music scene where he collaborated and nurtured upcoming as well as established artistes.
Musician Trevor Dongo said he was hit hard.
“Our music industry will never be the same without the iconic legend! I was planning to work with him on my 2019 project, but it’s never going to happen. MHSRIP Nzou Samanyanga,” wrote Dongo on his twitter account.
Aside from the studio, the lanky acoustic guitar wizard had developed cordial relations with artistes and followers,a side which renowned poet/musician Albert Nyathi emphasised soon after learning about his passing.
“It is difficult to accept, I have no words just as we have had performances together at home and in Europe and suddenly this, it is difficult to accept all that is left for us is perhaps to celebrate his life, but at this point that too is difficult because it is just so sudden,” said Nyathi to nods of assent from producer Macdonald “MacDee” Chidavaenzi.
According to MacDee, Tuku was “literally a father to me” and his departure has left the industry orphaned.
“I remember last Father’s Day he called us to Pakare Paye (Arts Centre) and we spent the whole day watching Neria and talking about the old times, then he bought us lunch, he would treat artistes like sons,” he said.
“Just being here (at the hospital) and getting such a shocker you ask yourself: Who is going to be our father in the music industry (and) who is going to keep us sane when we lose control? It is too much!”
No one really knows how the face of local music will look without the shadow of Mtukudzi and had there been a foreword before the tragedy maybe musicians like Macheso would have jostled to create a gem that would amplify the posthumous echo of the legends.
For the fans, perhaps just one more concert would have been organised so that his infinite fan base could enjoy that serenading husky voice fused with brilliant acoustic guitar strumming.
Tuku’s last decade was the darkest epoch in his life, a period marked by bereavement. In 2010 he lost his son Sam who was the apparent heir to the throne. Tuku had started introducing his son to the world through tours, hoping his son would carry on the legacy.
A year later, Tuku visited the grave yard again, to bury his trusted lieutenant, sound engineer and close relative-his Uncle Wonder Mukonowenzou, popularly known as Sekuru Wonder. Sekuru Wonder’s death hit Tuku hard, he even postponed his birthday celebrations that year. The musician said there was nothing to celebrate when he was still in mourning.
Tuku has been under the weather for the past few years, leading to cancellation of a number of shows. His illness propelled rumours of his death. He was rumoured dead nine times in the last decade.
Last week he failed to attend the Coca Cola awards ceremony where he was supposed to receive an honorary award.
Heartbreaks, bereavement, illness and age could have wrecked Tuku this past decade but ‘Nzou’ (the elephant) stood up for the challenge, in Sh
ona they say ‘Nzou hairemerwe ne nyanga dzayo’. After being reported dead and unable to take the next gig, like a phoenix he rose to the occasion.
Named Nzou (Elephant), Tuku had a cat’s nine lives. He survived incidences that could have killed him, narrowly escaping death time after time.
For three he played, for three he inspired and for the last three he stayed.
He was reported dead a total nine times and on the afternoon of Wednesday January 23 2019, when the roumur mill went on overdrive with news of his death many thought it’s that old tale.
A few years back Suluman Chimbetu visited Tuku’s residence after the rumor mill went over drive with Tuku’s death. Upon arrival and being welcomed by a ‘fit’ Tuku, Sulu recorded a video where Tuku boldly and comically said to the nation ‘I am still alive and when I decide to die I will call you,”
Reflecting on the death of Tuku, Sulumani said he dismissed the rumour on Wednesday since it was not the first time to hear of his death.
“I just laughed and thought it was a joke. But when the family confirmed I felt heavy and sad. It’s a huge blow to me and also the arts industry, Tuku was like a father to me, he referred to me as his son.
This is a big gap, we thought Sam (late) was going to take over if Tuku decides to retire but life had other plans, Sam was taken from us early and with the death of the old man we have been robbed,” said Sulu.
Celebrated guitarist Clive “Mono” Mukundu who was part of the Black Spirits band from 2003 to 2007 said when he heard of his death on Wednesday afternoon, he dismissed the news as fake.
On Thursday Mono published a recording of a phone conversation he had with Tuku laughing off the ninth death rumour in 2016.
“How many times do you want to die,” Mono asked, Tuku responded… “This is the ninth time I am dying, but last time I told people that when I am dying I will call them and I am yet to call,”.
“When I heard the news I quickly dismissed it as a rumour since it was not the first time we have heard of his death when he was actually still breathing. I only got to believe it when someone who was at the clinic confirmed to me,” said Mono.
Bulawayo-based Jeyz Marabini described Tuku as a ‘singer of singers’.
“We have lost a great man, we have lost not just a man but also music. He is a hero, he was a singer for singers, and we all looked up to him. He was a man who dedicated his life to music, he was music.
“Everyone in Zimbabwe and Africa are mourning his death, this shows that Oliver was a great man. I had a great opportunity of working with him whilst he was still alive, his music will comfort us,” he said.
The director of Iyasa, Nkululeko Dube described Tuku is a father figure.
“He was easy to approach, you could talk to him about anything and everything. His music spoke and still speaks to everyone, it speaks to the heart despite which ethnic group, country and continent one was from,” said Dube.