After 67 albums and a score of awards and honorary degrees, Zimbabwe’s musical legend Oliver Mtudkudzi lost his long battle with diabetes at the Avenues Clinic in Harare. He was 66.
He was buried Jan. 27, with music, singing and dancing by thousands of his adoring fans.
On the Afropop music website, guitarist Banning Eyre recalled his friend: “Born in 1952, Tuku grew up during the final decades of Rhodesian rule. He was a contemporary of Thomas Mapfumo, and both came of age during the brutal independence struggle of the 1970s, as Zimbabweans fought hard for liberation from the oppressive, racist Rhodesian regime.
“The two singers briefly worked together, then spending the next four decades as champions of roots music, particularly drawing on the musical traditions of the Shona people.
“Mtukudzi’s distinctive blend of traditional rhythms—mbira, jerusarema, muchongoya and many others—with elements of South African mbaqanga, American gospel, soul and more, became universally recognized as “tuku music.” His lyrics were full of sage advice on good living—honesty, compassion for others, avoiding the scourges of alcohol and drug abuse and the maladies that accompany them. But he delivered these messages in a gentle, fatherly way. He exemplified the very qualities he celebrated.”
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared him a national hero, a status normally held by ruling party elites and independence veterans.
In later years, “Tuku” as was informally called, developed the talents of young musicians, some of whom were nurtured at his Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton, outside Harare.
He produced songs with the South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as with his friend Hugh Masekela – the “father of South African jazz” – who died the same day in 2018.
Tuku’s last album was “Hany’Ga” – which Mtukudzi defined as “concern”.
A tireless advocate to end child marriage, he composed the song ‘Haasati Aziva’ (‘You can’t pledge your child for marriage’) and most recently, during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, he authored an opinion editorial in Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper, calling for an end to this harmful practice.
The U.N. named him Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, promoting children’s rights and HIV awareness.
Source via Global Information Network