Tuku: Departed but his music lives on

HARARE - As many writers have said before; “The earth indeed takes back its gift”. Superstar musician Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi — who died onWednesday aged 66 after a long battle with diabetes is one such example.

After raising the Zimbabwean flag high through music that he took within the region and internationally, the much-loved lanky musician died at Harare’s Avenues Clinic where he was rushed after his health suddenly deteriorated.

Tuku had 66 albums to his name at the time of his death and had collaborated with many upcoming artistes in the country and other stars from the region.

His death comes almost nine years after he lost his son Sam, Daisy’s son, who died in a car accident on March 15, 2010 while driving home with his boyhood friend.

A heartbroken Daisy could not speak to the media and the Daily News on Sunday could not intrude into her grief.

Mtukudzi’s failing health was first revealed last year towards the festive season when he was forced to cancel his tour of the United Kingdom, due to what promoters said was a result of “heart failure”.

Only last week, the multi-award winning musician missed the ZBC Coca-Cola Music awards because of his failing health but even in absentia he scooped The Veteran Musician Honorary Award for his indisputable contribution to the country’s music industry.

Tuku — as he was affectionately known — was Zimbabwe’s most successful musician and was declared a national hero after the Zanu PF politburo unanimously agreed that he be accorded the highest status.

Mtukudzi, a recording artist since he was 23 as the frontman for his then Wagon Wheels, started out his career alongside another music legend Thomas Mapfumo. He became a legend in cross-genre music of Afro-jazz, releasing 66 albums in his more than four-decade career, most with his own band The Black Spirits.

Hundreds of people paid homage to the late Tuku at his memorial service attended by ordinary people, music stars and politicians.

In a eulogy at his funeral, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said Tuku was more than a singer, he was a unifier and part of ourselves, part of Zimbabwe.

As tribute to late music veteran, Chamisa asked musicians at the funeral wake, Mapfumo, Mechanic Manyeruke, Zex Manatsa, Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria and Alick Macheso to stand up.

“Musicians are the real heroes. Politicians divide people while musicians are there to unite people. I have invited these men up to the front as tribute to the late Tuku,” he said.

He said he knew Tuku at a personal level, adding his presence was not
to seek political mileage but in honour of the iconic Zimbabwean star.

The politician said Tuku preached unity, before he led the singing of funeral dirge Pamusoro.

Other high profile political figures who attended the funeral included former vice president Joice Mujuru.

The sudden death of the music legend  sent shockwaves through social media, as masses of Twitter users flooded the site to express their heartfelt emotions.

Presidents, envoys, actors, musicians and celebrities quickly jumped on social media, sending tributes and messages of sadness as news of the singer’s death hit media outlets. Tuku became one of the top-trending term on Twitter worldwide shortly after his death was reported.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa tweeted his condolences from Davos, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of music legend & human rights activist Oliver Mtukudzi. He is immortalised through the contribution he made to the arts, with talent that fired up all of Africa. Deepest condolences to his loved ones. From his No. 1 fan in the whole world,” Ramaphosa said.

His predecessor Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign as president in February last year after nine years beset by corruption scandals and economic stagnation, described Tuku as a unifier.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of the legend, ... Mtukudzi. His music has carried us through some of our darkest and happiest times, it has also united us across borders.

“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends. Zorora murugare, dear Tuku,” Zuma said on Twitter.

Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa’s Arts and Culture minister, tweeted: “From the depths of Harare his career blossomed like the flame lily flower & his artistic genius brought us together in good times & gave us hope during our darkest hour.”

Unites States former envoy to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said he was saddened by the death of “most creative and generous” Mtukudzi.

“I’m heartbroken over this loss to music,  to the world, and to decency. Over the course of nearly 20 years, I had the honor of working with Tuku on several initiatives.  He cared about and gave generously of his time to HIV/Aids awareness, education, orphans and street kids, and, of course, music.

“I was so privileged to know him, and to have made music with him. My heart goes out to his wife and daughter, and all of his fans around the world,” Wharton said.

Legendary Chimurenga music maestro “Mukanya” said he was pained by the death of Mtukudzi.

“In Zimbabwe, we say wafa wanaka. But this is a generic phrase normally used for one whose good works are hard to put together after he has gone.

“With Tuku, we say matipa matitorera. We were given and were later robbed. This was a man of many talents. Music that lasts is not easy to compose.

“I will say that last year in 2018 when we joined hands on the stage at the Glamis Arena, little did we realize that we were doing our parting shots. Kwaive kuonekana.

“Today is a sad day. Tuku was a wonderful, kind hearted, selfless man who had the mind to care for others. I cry for a brother, friend, uncle, grand pa and sahwira. Oliver was a man of the people.

“He sang from the heart and he was candid as he expressed himself clearly. His fame rested on solid pride in his culture, his Ubuntu and his focus on what mattered most to his life. People,” Mapfumo said in a statement.

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