Tuku, the famous superstar who refused fame

By William Milasi

Zimbabwe and Africa’s most iconic musician Oliver Mtukudzi said only death was going to remove him from the stage as he had no plans of retiring from the showbiz industry.

As fate has it Mtukudzi who breathed his last  week in Harare and was only conferred with a lifetime achievement award only left his microphone at his deathbed bringing to an end an illustrious career after decades of rollicking and, captivating performances across the globe.

“We are not mourning Tuku, but we are celebrating his life,” a close confidant and former manager to Mtukudzi and chairperson of Pakare Paye Arts Centre Nicodemous Manyame said in an interview in Kwekwe this week.

With a relationship which dated back to the early 1990s Manyame said the accomplished musician always got angry if you would refer to him as a superstar or famous.

“If you take music away from me then there is no Mtukudzi. My music is famous but I am not famous. Without my music I am nothing,” Mtukudzi’s words according to Manyame.

Tuku succumbed to diabetes at the age of 66.

Through his musical exploits Mtukudzi has been conferred with a national hero status by the government.

Mtukudzi’s humility according to Manyame saw the iconic musician walking around without body guards, driving his own car and have it being minded by ordinary car minders.

“He never saw himself as a celebrity,” Manyame said.

He narrated his relationship with Tuku.

“The mere fact that he would befriend an ordinary man like me clearly shows how humble he was.

“Being a music promoter myself I met Tuku in 1993. I was then doing a project with a gospel musician the late Brain ‘The Sparrow’ Sibalo from Redcliff. I wanted him to assist us in that project. From then on a relationship blossomed,” he said.

Manyame said Tuku was brought to Kwekwe to recover emotionally and physically as he was going through a divorce with his first wife melody and also wanted to recuperate from an illness.

“It was in Kwekwe that he met his now wife Daisy who hails from this place,” he said.

Manyame said he first came to realize Mtukudzi’s composing prowess during his relationship days with Daisy.

“The song Svovi was a secret song which we did with him. It was dedicated to Daisy as a wedding gift.

“That’s when I first noticed his composing qualities he would play any guitar from bass to lead and keyboards,” he said.

Mtukudzi during perfomances played an acoustic guitar.

It was during his time in Kwekwe that Tuku worked with Kwekwe ensemble Zig Zag Band.

It was during Tuku’s interaction with Zig Zag that guitarist Gilbert Zvamaida strumming prowess came to the fore.

Zvamaida was one of the founders of Zig Zag Band.

He is now the lead guitarist of Chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo.

Zvamaida in an interview said he is devastated.

They last shared the stage with Tuku at Mapfumo’s homecoming gala in April at Glamis Arena.

“I am devastated to say the least that we last shared the stage with him in April. I have lost a band mate and a brother to me. It is so hurtful. We have been robbed of a legend for sure,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manyame said Tuku helped one of Kwekwe’s best sungura artists the late Tongai Moyo.

“The first interaction Tuku had with Tongai Moyo was at Batanai Tavern in Amaveni when they were rehearsing. He was captivated with the Utakataka beat which was leaning towards the former Leonard Dembo beat. He went at length to assist them in recording their first album,” said Manyame.

Peter Moyo the son to the late Tongai also applauded the immense contribution which Tuku made to his father’s career.

“I was touched when Tuku told me that he would use his own money to help my father record and do rehearsals because by that time Tuku was based in Kwekwe.

“After explaining everything he said to me Peter I am happy that you came and I want to tell you something, that you have to do good things to others not that you are forced or what but because it’s just good to do so,” Peter said.

Edward Tavaziva Bishop at Rock of Ages Ministry said he interacted with Tuku more as a kid during his days when the musician was in Kwekwe.

“As a kid I remember people going to his house and waited outside the fence seeing him playing his guitar.

“I would be the last to leave the place. One day I was coming from school and he invited me into his yard. From then on I would go to his house,” Tavaziva said.

So close was the relationship between the young Tavaziva who was then at primary level and Tuku that he was featured on one of Tuku’s song, ‘street kid’ were Tavaziva acted the street kid role.

“He groomed me to be what I am, to imagine he mentored me from around grade 3 and appearing in some videos like street kid taken from the 1986 album (Waona). I remember the days when we could ride to shows on my motor bike,” he said.

Tavaziva also explained how Tuku met the Zig Zag band.

“He had gone to visit his uncle Mr Kadenhe who used to run Club Hideout 007, and then he was captivated by the rhythm guitarist, Gilbert who could play then all his songs. He started rehearsing with them a few days after resulting in the release of an album with popular songs such as “Dzikamawo Wakura” and “pss pss hello”

Through humility and dedication to uplift others Tuku amongst other artist according to Manyame played an immense role in assisting The Penga Udzoke Band rise to stardom.

Tuku identified the group in the farming communities of Marondera and assisted the group to scale national heights.

To help upcoming artists Tuku, Manyame said mooted the idea of Pakare Paya in the 90s when he was still in Kwekwe though the dream was to be realized in the early 2000s.

Amongst notable artists who passed through Pakare Paye are Canadian based Munya Matarutse and Garry Tight.

The greatest vision for the arts centre was that someday it was to be inherited by his son Sam and push the Tuku Music to eternity Manyame revealed.

“Though he said he was never going to hang up the microphone he knew that someday he needed to hand over the legacy to Sam. I was Sam’s manager and mooted the idea of Mhou ne Mhuru yayo were the two were supposed to be on stage together,” he said.

The former super star’s manager said the two only managed to share the same stage once.

“It’s unfortunate they only performed together before the death of Sam,” he said.

Manyame concluded that Tuku might not have recovered from Sam’s death.

“I think he did not recover from Sam’s death and this might have also contributed to his death,” he said.

Kwekwe prominent music promoter and prolific artist Tawanda Jumo said Tuku’s death is a huge loss to the music industry.

“It’s a great loss to the industry. He was a father figure in the industry. He was humble, supportive and a well of wisdom.

“As Bantu Entertainment Zimbabwe, we had hoped to work with his Pakare Paye arts in culture exchange programs and other areas of common interest.

“I hope the Tuku brand lives through his works, his vision and inspiration.

“We are not mourning but celebrating a life well lived, full of achievements and globally,” said Jumo.

Another former Amaveni bred artist now based in Australia Simbarashe Mushete speaking from his base in Australia told The Midlands Observer that Tuku’s death is a huge blow.

“This is a great loss, a huge blow,” he said.

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