Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated musicians, died Wednesday of an undisclosed ailment, a former colleague has said.
After his death, many of his fans and music collaborators shared memorable photographs in which they pose with the artist. This shows that Tuku was indeed a man of the people.
But the greatest connection fans made with Tuku was through his music, starting with his 1978 debut solo album Ndipeiwo Zano (Give Me an Idea), which was re-released in 2000 due to its iconic status. This strong connection to his music continued until his last offering Han’a (Concern) released last year.
There is no Oliver Mtukudzi without the ‘Tuku Music’ brand – an amalgamation of jazz and jiti and sung in Shona, Ndebele and English – which was key in garnering the artist global fame. In the past 42 years, Tuku wrote unforgettable songs that made him one of the biggest names out of Africa, and arguably the biggest in his home country. He played abroad to millions of fans who will continue the Tuku legacy by playing his music to future generations for many years to come.
‘Neria’ was the official soundtrack of the eponymous film. The song consoles a widow named Neria who has lost her husband. The single, which is off the album of the same name, has become synonymous with the challenges faced by Zimbabwean widows, such as social ostracism and inheritance disputes.
‘Street Kid’ (1995)
Tuku wanted to bring to the fore Zimbabwe’s many homeless children. A social commentary par excellence, ‘Street Kid’ bemoans children eating out of bins and exposes the dire economic situation in 1990s Zimbabwe. The song is off the Was My Child album.
‘Dzoka Uyamwe’ (1999)
‘Dzoka Uyamwe’ is about a son who longs for his roots, while his mother, too, beckons him to return home. This song can also interpreted along political and socio-economic lines: it speaks of the conflict between the harsh urban life at the turn of the millennium and the sanctuary and simplicity in rural Zimbabwe. The track is off the Tuku Music album.
‘Seiko Mwari’ (2000)
‘Seiko Mwari’ means ‘Why God?’ Here Tuku asks God to tell him where their relationship stands. The emotional song makes references to the biblical stories of Job and Mary. The song is off the Paivepo album and is a gospel track sometimes used by Zimbabweans for consolation after losing a loved one.
‘Into Yami’ (2006) – Ringo Madlingozi (South Africa) ft. Oliver Mtukudzi
‘Into Yami’ is a love song that became a huge hit in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is sung in Xhosa and Shona and is one of the most successful collaborations between artists from the two neighbouring countries.