Name: Oliver Mtukudzi
Date Of Birth: 22 September 1952
Date of Death: 23 January 2019 (aged 66)
Occupation: Singer, Songwritter, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Spouse: Melody Murape (1979-1993) Daisy Mashonga (?-2019)
Facts: Declared a National Hero of Zimbabwe, Human rights Activist
Oliver Mtukudzi was an Afro-Jazz musician who was a cultural emblem for Zimbabwe; he humbly shared his talents all around the globe earning him several awards and recognition. He was named one of Forbes top 40 Most Powerful African Celebrities in 2011 because of his influential music and philanthropy (amongst others) which earned him much respect.
Born and raised in the neighbourhood of Highfield in Harare on September 22nd 1952, Oliver Mtukudzi gained most of his inspiration from his ghetto lifestyle as a young man. He was the oldest in a family of 6 and took on responsibilities from a young age, particularly following his father’s death. The singer-songwriter’s parents were both lovers of music and were passionate church choir members.
Oliver Mtukudzi was a self-taught guitarist and he learnt to play the instrument from a book called “its easy to learn the guitar”. He handmade his very first guitar at the age of 15 using a tin and wires. A few years later, at 23years old he managed to buy himself his first acoustic guitar in 1975. When he mastered this instrument, he proceeded in the same year to release his single Stop After Orange. This set him off to join a band named Wagon Wheel which included Thomas Mapfumo, for a short period, before launching his solo career. The young artist took advice from Thomas Mapfumo to compose more songs in his mother tongue- Shona- and this was followed by the release of the album Ndipiweo Zano in 1978 with his band The Black Spirits. Tuku and the Black Spirits recorded several albums together till the late 80’s.
By the 90’s Tuku had gained much recognition and was a popular feature at festivals around Africa. As he rebranded himself, TUKU MUSIC came to life under new management, marketing and producers. By the mid-2000’s, TUKU Music had transcended the African borders and soon the artist was touring Europe, USA and Canada.
Mtukudzi established a unique sound which is a mixed grill of Zimbabwean traditional music called Jiti, mbaqanga music from South Africa, Katekwe/Korekore traditional drumming, mbira and Afro-pop. In his interview with Traffic Jams, the artist shares that his goal has always been to compose timeless music, ‘songs that work yesterday, today and tomorrow, and the real purpose of song is in the message it presents’. It is no surprise that his lyrics are perfectly composed literature filled with relatable or familiar metaphors which allowed him to connect with his audience.
The artist had three children and two grand children and survived with his wife Daisy Mtukudzi. His two children Sam and Selmour followed in his musical footsteps, but unfortunately, in March 2010, his son Sam died in a car accident. The death of his son was a difficult period for the family and inspired his 55th album Sarawoga which expresses grief of hardship and losses.
Pakare Paye Arts Centre was founded by Oliver Mtukudzi in 2003 and is an institution designed for individuals desiring to nurture their artistic talents and passions. It was inspired as he witnessed the lack of support young artists receive from friends and family as they begin their journeys. The School is located in Norton, and focuses on the art of expression through music, drama, dance, poetry etc. The Centre has been the launching field for some artists who Oliver Mtukudzi mentored himself because of his passion for artistic expression and impacting the lives of others. The Centre also has a very popular restaurant and carries out workshops and conferences throughout the year; some of which were in partnership with the Swedish Embassy.
Oliver Mtukudzi merged his passion for music, film and philanthropy. He was appointed to be the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa for HIV awareness. In 1992 he composed the soundtrack for Zimbabwes 2nd film which is about the plight of a widowed woman. The messages in his songs brought awareness to domestic violence, HIV AIDS and child development. In 1992 he won an M-Net award for best soundtrack for the movie Neria which was one of the best selling movies in Zimbabwes history.
The signature TUKU cough
The signature cough that he makes in all his songs started as a mistake. As Mtukudzi was recording a song in 1978, he accidentally coughed in the middle of the recording. During that era, one had limited studio time and so he could not rectify the error. He released it as it was, and hoped for the best. Sure enough his fans LOVED it! During his interview on Traffic Jams, the artist shared that he even got requests to redo his old songs and insert that cough. It was surely a million dollar cough.
Oliver Mtukudzi died on January 23 2019 and was declared a National Hero of Zimbabwe. he had a state-led funeral as he was layed to rest in his village of Madziva. Part of his funeral proceedings was held at the National Sports Stadium of Zimbabwe and was open to the nation as they celebrated his life. His funeral was attended by artists, political dignitaries, business people and other citizens of the nation. He brought people of all backgrounds together in his death as he did with his music.
Oliver Mtukudzi. Truly a Legend.
M-Net Best Soundtrack (Neria
• KORA Award for Best Arrangement in 2002, for Ndakuwara.
• SAMA Finalist (Best Traditional/African Adult Contemporary DVD) Live at the Cape Town Jazz Festival.
• National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) in 2002 and 2004 for Best Group / Male vocalist
• SAMA Finalist (Best Traditional/African Adult Contemporary DVD) Live At The Cape Town Jazz Festival
• KORA Award for Best African male artist and Lifetime Achievement Award in August 2003.
• Reel Award Winner for Best African Language in 2003.
• An honorary degree from the University of Zimbabwe in December 2003
• NAMA Award 2003: Best Group/Artist.
• NAMA Award 2004: Best Group/Artist.
• NAMA Award 2005: National Arts Personality of the Year.
• NAMA Award 2006: Outstanding Album (NHAVA).
• ZIMA (Best Music Ringing Tone Handiro Dambudziko).
• ZIMA (Music Ambassador).
• NAMA Award 2007: Best Musician/Group.
• Cultural Ambassador – Zimbabwe Tourism Association.
2008- NAMA Award 2008: (Outstanding Musician).
2009- Honorary MSc (Fine Arts) Degree awarded by the Women’s University in Africa in 2009.
• MTN SAMA Awards recognized his son’s achievements in music.
• University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and The International Council of Africana Womanism (ICAW) Award: recognition of his luminary role in uplifting African women through his artistic work – music and a diversity of art forms – offered as community development at his arts academy at Pakare Paye in Norton.
• Titled Zimbabwe’s first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
• Honoured by the Government of Italy with the prestigious Cavaliere of the Order of Merit Award in recognition of his work as an international musician. (The award is what the Knighthood is to England).
• Honorary Doctorate (Ph.D.) International Institute of Philanthropy.
• Honorary Doctorate from Great Zimbabwe University (GZU). Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology & Choreography (Honoris Causa).
2017- All Africa Music Awards, (AFRIMA) African Legend Award
1978 Ndipeiwo Zano (re-released 2000)
1979 Chokwadi Chichabuda
1979 Muroi Ndiani?
1980 Africa (re-released 2000)
1982 Please Ndapota
1983 Oliver’s Greatest Hits
1984 Hwema Handirase
1986 Zvauya Sei?
1988 Nyanga Nyanga
1988 Strange, Isn’t It?’
1988 Sugar Pie
1989 Grandpa Story
1990 Pss Pss Hallo!
1992 Rumbidzai Jehova
1992 Neria Soundtrack’
1993 Son of Africa
1994 Ziwere MuKobenhavn
1995 Was My Child
1996 Svovi yangu
1995 The Other Side: Live in Switzerland
1995 Ivai Navo
1997 Ndega Zvangu (re-released 2001)
1998 Dzangu Dziye
1999 Tuku Music
2001 Bvuma (Tolerance)
2002 Shanda soundtrack
2002 Vhunze Moto
2003 Shanda (Alula Records)
2003 Tsivo (Revenge)
2004 Greatest Hits Tuku Years
2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1991–1997
2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1984–1991
2007 Tsimba Itsoka
2008 Dairai (Believe)
2010 Kutsi Kwemoyo (compilation)
2011 Abi’angu (Duets of my time)
2014 Mukombe Wemvura
2016 God Bless You – The Gospel Collection
2016 Eheka Nhai Yahwe!