An outpouring of grief and condolences continued yesterday following the news of the death of legendary Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi. Fans eulogised the singer, who died on Wednesday, as one of the most talented artistes the continent has ever known.
The composer, singer, guitarist and band leader, died at Harare's Avenues Clinic. He fell ill about a month ago but had been in poor health for a long time and had continued doing what he loved most, which was making alluring music.
With his passing on, the African music fraternity and hordes of fans mourned one of its stalwarts. His music was, for decades, enjoyed across the continent, but his biggest fan base was in East, Central and Southern Africa.
Incidentally, the 66-year-old musician, popularly known as “Tuku”, died on the same month and date as South African jazz maestro Hugh Masekela a year ago. Shortly after Masekela’s death, Tuku paid a heart-warming tribute to his friend and called him a "mentor and brother". The two had recorded several songs together, including the hits Tapera and Berita-Mwana wa Mai.
In Kenya, of one the most notable eulogies came from Afro-fusion musician Suzanna Owiyo, of the Kisumu 100 hit song fame. Ms Owiyo worked closely with Mr Mtukudzi during some of his visits to Kenya and even hosted him to a performance during the Out of Town Music Concert held at Kisumu’s Acacia Premier Hotel in 2016.
Speaking to the Nation on Thursday evening, Ms Owiyo remembered him as more of an elder brother and mentor in music.
“I had grown up in music listening to him. He inspired me as a guitarist and singer,” she said.
She recalled how, only last week, Mr Mtukudzi texted her to inquire about her safety following the DusitD2 Hotel terrorist attack in Nairobi.
Mr Mtukudzi also worked with another Kenyan star, Eric Wainaina, on the song titled, Twende Twende, which showed his willingness to record with musicians across the continent. The lyrics of the song were in Kiswahili, English and his native Shona.
Veteran Kenyan broadcaster Fred Obachi Machoka also mourned Mr Mtukudzi, saying he had made a great contribution to African music.
“We will always remember him for his songs, which cut across music fans of all ages,” Mr Machoka said.
With a light touch, he recalled how his fans would joke about his uncanny resemblance with Mr Mtukudzi, particularly his slender frame, complexion, height and other features.
Mr Machoka said he would dedicate his forthcoming weekend Roga Roga programmes on Citizen Radio and TV to the fallen music icon.
An ardent fan of the Zimbabwean star, Dr Pamela Olet, from Nairobi, said she had been deeply saddened by his death.
“Africa will greatly miss this humble music star.”
Rhumba fan and music promoter John Machua Waithaka of Nairobi’s Makuti Club fame from the 1990s, said Mr Mtukudzi would forever be remembered for his great music.
On learning of his death, Ugandan journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) tweeted the sad news, also pointing out the uncanny coincidence of the dates of deaths of the two, albeit a year apart.
His most famous song was probably the HIV/Aids awareness hit, “Todii”, which was inspired by the departure and deaths of some of his band members.
He sang in Shona and English: “Hooo todini senzeni. What shall we do tingadii Senzenjani, what shall we do Zvinorwadza sei kurera rufu mumaoko Uchadii uinawo utachiwana Zvinorwadza sei kuchengeta rufu mumaoko (How painful it is to look after someone you know is going to die, when they have Aids. This person has got something that will lead to their death)."
He was also known for his other big songs such as Neria, Mutserendende, Svovi Yangu, Lord, Ngoromera, Totutuma, and Ziwere. Most of them were sang in the Shona language.
Besides the secular songs, he also recorded some gospel hits such as Hossanna and Appo Jesu Anouya.
In 2018, Mr Mtukudzi was hospitalised for a heart ailment. Reports then indicated that he had been battling diabetes complications for a while.
During an interview with a South African TV station about a year ago, Tuku spoke about his excitement on releasing his 67th album.
Mr Mtukudzi, who began performing in 1977, when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured fellow top Zimbabwean star Thomas Mapfumo, was known for his husky voice, and is considered to be one of his country’s most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icons of all time.
The singer was a Unicef goodwill ambassador for the southern African region.
He was a father of five (two of them musicians). One, Sam who was also a musician, died in a road accident in March, 2010.
Tuku may be gone but his melody lives on.