The 20th century was surely a very busy one for African nations. The continent was battling for independence from Europeans, and this battle surely led to the rise of prominent musicians. The tunes from these musical artistes brought hope to Africans that they struggled to Independence from their colonial masters. One face that shaped African music is Oliver Mtukudzi.
When it comes to African music in the twentieth century, one notable face is Zimbabwean-born Afro-Jazz artiste – Oliver Mtukudzi
Full names: Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi
Date of Birth: 22 September 1952 – Highfield, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
Date of Death: 23 January 2019 (aged 66)
Favourite Instrument: Guitars
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was a Zimbabwean musician, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region. According to Wikipedia, Tuku was considered to have been Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognized cultural icon of all time.
Mtukudzi grew up in Highfield, a poor neighborhood in Salisbury (modern-day Harare) in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He was the eldest of seven siblings. While both his parents sang in a choir, they were initially not supportive of his continued interest in music. Consequently, they proceeded to break his first homemade guitar.
He began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo and fellow legendary guitarist James Chimombe. With the support of Mutanga, the prayers and blessings of Amai Mutanga, he allowed them to perform at Mutanga Restaurant & Night Club at Pungwe. At the time, Mutanga Restaurant & Night Club was the first and only African licensed night club available for blacks under Rhodesia’s policy of segregation. Their single Dzandimomotera went gold and Tuku’s first album followed, which was also a major success. Mtukudzi is also a contributor to Mahube, Southern Africa’s “supergroup”.
With his husky voice, Mtukudzi has become the most recognized voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond. A member of Zimbabwe’s KoreKore group, he sings in the nation’s dominant Shona language along with Ndebele and English. He also incorporates elements of different musical traditions, giving his music a distinctive style, known to fans as Tuku Music.
Mtukudzi has had a number of tours around the world. He has been on several tours in the UK, US and Canada to perform for large audiences. In 2017 Mtukudzi entertained guests at the wedding of Zimbabwean businessman Wicknell Chivayo.
Oliver Mtukudzi performing on stage
Mtukudzi is the father of five children and has two grandchildren. Two of his children are also musicians. His son Sam Mtukudzi, a successful musician in his own right, died in a car accident in March 2010. In 2013, Oliver released an album titled “Sarawoga”, in tribute to his son.
On Sunday, January 27, 2019, thousands of mourners travelled across Zimbabwe to attend the burial of Oliver Mtukudzi. He died at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe after a long battle with sugar diabetes.
As far as music on the continent goes, one face that shaped African music is Oliver Mtukudzi – a name that will live long in the hearts of African music lovers.