Tuku: the ultimate mentor

HARARE - Music legend Oliver ''Tuku'' Mtukudzi, who passed away in Harare aged 66 on Wednesday after a long battle with diabetes, will, among other things, be remembered for mentoring young musicians.

Throughout his long music career, which spanned over four decades, Tuku provided a platform for fledgling artistes to flourish. The award-winning musician used his Norton-based Pakare Paye Arts Centre, which he established in 2004, to nurture young talent. Rising Afro-fusion artiste Ashton “Mbeu” Nyahora and guitarist-cum-vocalist Donald Kanyuchi typify the high quality of musicians that have been churned out by Tuku’s Pakare Paye.

But the biggest beneficiary of Tuku’s exemplary mentorship was arguably Gary Tight- son of Afro-fusion veteran and Samanyanga’s friend Willom Tight. The two shared a special bond that made many to suggest that Gary probably reminded Tuku of his late son Sam who tragically passed away in an accident in March 2010.

The genesis of this special relationship possibly came about at Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) in March 2016 at the launch of Jah Prayzah’s fifth album, Kumbumura Mhute. Tuku was guest of honour at the event.

Tuku sauntered into the HICC with his wife Daisy in tow. As had become norm, there was a big scramble for Tuku’s ear by fellow artistes, fans and ushers who wanted to direct to the music legend to the high table. But it was clear that none of them was winning his undivided attention.

The Bvuma singer looked very distracted. In between half-hearted answers to greetings, Tuku’s gaze continued to wander intermittently towards the stage where Gary was performing. As fate would have it, the music superstar entered the HICC while Gary was performing ‘Cheziya,’ a song by Tuku’s late son Sam.

Tuku was clearly moved by Gary’s passionate rendition of ‘Cheziya.’ The rising artiste performed the song like it was his. It seemed for once as if Sam Mtukudzi had reincarnated.

The well-executed performance of ‘Cheziya’ won the heart of the veteran musician .It came as no surprise when the Tuku invited Gary to collaborate with him on stage at his ‘Greatest Hits Concert’ that took place 10 days later at the same venue, marking the start of what was to become a deep-rooted relationship between the two.

Three months later, Tuku’s manager at the time, Sam Mataure, announced plans to feature Gary on Abi’angu II,’an album on which Tuku wanted to feature his  musical friends who include Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), Salif Keita (Mali), South Africa-based Kunle Ayo (Nigeria), Alick Macheso and Ammara Brown.

In May 2017, at Gary’s 21st birthday, where Samanyanga was the guest of honour, Tuku and his young protégé gave an insight into their special relationship.

Gary attributed his success to the music legend.

“I could say that 40 percent of Gary Tight the musician has been contributed by Mudhara Tuku. Many Zimbabwean musicians, some of them more experienced and talented than me, often ask me why Mudhara Tuku has such a soft spot for me.

“They are surprised by the fact that such an iconic artiste is willing to assist Gary wo zvake; a young artiste who is still to release his debut album,” said Gary then.

At the birthday party Tuku explained why he chose to help Gary and not other upcoming artistes.

“I help you (Gary) not because you are the son of my friend Wilom Tight but because uri mupfana aribho (You are a good boy.)

“Ukava mwana akanaka zvese unozviwana (If you behave well you will succeed.)Talent is important yes but discipline and focus are more important.

“I didn’t reach this milestone (four decades in music) entirely because of my talent but due to discipline and hard work. There are many even more talented people who have failed to succeed because of lack of discipline,” said the music legend then.

To cement their special relationship, Tuku and Gary collaborated last year on a reggae-chigiyo hit titled ‘Ndizarurire.” Thanks, to the hit Gary has become one of the most highly rated young Zimbabwean artiste.

Apart from Gary Tight, in recent times Tuku has also been impressed by guitarist-cum-vocalist Norman Masamba who first burst onto the local music scene as the lead guitarist of Afro-fusion artiste Victor Kunonga’s Peace Band.

At the inaugural Jacaranda Music Festival held at Hellenic Sports Club in Harare in October last year, I was lucky to briefly watch the performing artistes in the company of Tuku and his manager Walter Wanyanya whose Ngoma Nehosho organised the well-attended event.

Tuku boldly declared that Masamba was on course to be an accomplished musician.

“He is a very talented musician and has all he needs to have a great music career. He is a great vocalist in addition to being a very talented guitarist. What I am very happy about him is the fact that he is very disciplined. I am very keen to work with him in future,” said Tuku at the time.

After hearing of Tuku’s death, Masamba, who is currently based in South Africa, described the music legend’s death as a “very big blow.”

“It is very sad because we had lined up a collaboration. Mudhara Tuku had actually selected one of my tracks that had impressed him. He wanted to feature on the track but due to his tight schedule we kept on rescheduling. Sadly death has robbed me of this great chance to do a duet with an internationally acclaimed music icon,” Masamba told the Daily News.


 

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