“Heal Zimbabwe through music” Oliver Mtukudzi

We were asked to make a dossier of someone else’s national hero. I did Gamu on Oliver Mtukudzi, a very famous musician in Zimbabwe. 

By Galuh —  With more than 61 albums and nearly four decades in music industry, Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi proves his dedication as an artist to his country.

Oliver Mtukudzi known for his modest and interactive stage performance (Photo by Howard Stanbury)
Oliver Mtukudzi known for his modest and interactive stage performance (Photo by Howard Stanbury)

Oliver Mtukudzi, known as “Tuku” by his fans, lets his music speaks through sharp yet simple lyrics. His songs focus on the social and economic issues such as poverty and AIDS epidemic, solidarity, healing and hope.

His song Todii, means “what shall we do?” released in 1999 and is one of the most watchable clip in YouTube.

I have done my job well as an artist. I stand for all Zimbabweans.” Oliver Mtukudzi

Big responsibility
Mtukudzi is the eldest in a family of seven, born on September 22, 1952, in Highfield, a ghetto and highly-density suburb in Harare, Zimbabwe.

His father and mother were also notable singers. When his father died, he found himself in a big responsibility looking after his siblings.

Performing at Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2008 (Photo by  Wilfred Paulse)
Performing at Cape Town Jazz Festival 2008 (Photo by Wilfred Paulse)

First single 
Young Mtukudzi taught himself to play guitar and joined choirs to improve his singing talent. Stop After Orange is his first single debut, released in 1975. Two years later, he went professional by joining Wagon Wheels with Thomas Mapfumo. It did not last long although their single Dzandimomotera went gold.

In 1979, Mtukudzi left Wagon Wheels and together with some of its members formed a new band, Black Spirits. His debut solo album, Africa, was released right after Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980.

Recognized voice
His husky and deep voice has become the most recognized voice in Zimbabwe. His fame in blending traditional music, including South African mbaqanga and Zimbabwean mbira, has made his music so unique it has its own name, “Tuku Musik”.

Mbira, a traditional music instrument from Eastern and Southern Africa (Photo by Alex Weeks/Wikipedia Commons)
Mbira, music instrument from Southern Africa (Photo by Alex Weeks)

Music speaks
Mtukudzi writes his songs in Shona (largely spoken in Zimbabwe), Ndebele and English. Yet, the 61-year-old superstar is adored because his music is revolutionary.

“I have done my job well as an artist. I represent Zimbabweans regardless of their political inclinations, regardless of religion. I stand for all Zimbabweans. That is what I am, that is what my music is,” said the musician who was named as Voice of the Voiceless by TIME in April 2003.

Oliver Mtukudzi’s interesting facts

  • Sarawoga, released in 2012, is his latest album as a tribute to his son Sam, who died in a car crash in 2010
  • UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for eastern and southern Africa, focusing on youth development and HIV/AIDS
  • Lost his brother Robert and several band members to AIDS, recently took his campaign to eradicate the HIV/AIDS stigma to mothers in Tanzania
  • Outspoken against patriarchy and has criticized polygamy as a practice that increases the risk of spreading HIV

References
CNN is an American basic cable and satellite television channel. The article about Oliver Mtukudzi was published online on January 9, 2013 by Nkepile Mabuse, a CNN contributor based in Johannesburg.  

Allmusic.com is an in-depth online resource to find about albums and musicians around the world. The biography of Mtukudzi was written by Craig Harris, a musician himself.

Tukumusik.com. This is the official website of Oliver Mtukudzi. The biography section was written by Shepherd Mutamba, a well-known journalist.

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