Tuku: Bringing light and hope

Oliver Mtukudzi. (Oupa Nkosi)

Oliver Mtukudzi. (Oupa Nkosi)

Zimbabwe's master of song Oliver Mtukudzi has just turned 60. But he shows no signs of slowing down, even after the death of his son.

Tall and lean, he wears a black hat and a casual T-shirt upon which the image of his late son, Samson, is emblazoned. Popularly known as “Tuku” to the multitudes of his fans throughout Africa, he sought to make light of his garlanded career by saying: “According to my mother, my birth cry was the most beautiful composition.”

Mtukudzi boasts a career that spans over 35 years in which he has performed all over the world. He explains his busy touring schedule by saying: “I am an artist born of Zimbabwe but not [just] for Zimbabwe,” he told the Mail & Guardian at the offices of his label, Sheer Music.

He strongly believes that the purpose of art is to bring life and hope to the people. By turning philosophical and contrarian, Mtukudzi sought to downplay his accomplishments by saying: “There’s no success in art [but] there’s achievement. I can achieve to touch your heart with a song but you cannot call that success because I still have to touch your heart again."

His latest album Sarawoga (Shona for “left alone”) is a tribute to his late son, who died in in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 21. Mtukudzi’s face lights up as he talks about Sam.

“He was a humble boy, easy to work with. I got to know him better when he was gone …when people came to pay their respects. He was a friend of people, both young and old.”

Mtukudzi did not stop performing even after his son’s death. He says: “Until now, I’m still learning to live with it … I used [performing] as therapy; I’d go on stage and weep. He was just something else.”

Oliver Mtukudzi will perform at the Market Theatre on November 24 from 8pm.

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