Remembering Oliver Mtukudzi through music: Four decades of Tuku

In his 42 years as a musician, Oliver Mtukudzi released over 60 albums and established a successful music career, drawing fans and supporters from around the world.

Legendary singer and song-writer, Oliver Mtukudzi, has earned that very title by maintaining a successful career in Jazz music for 42 years. His death on Wednesday, 23 January 2019, has been referred to by many as the fall of a giant and a great loss to African music.

Mtukudzi’s illustrious career dates back to 1977 when he began performing with fellow musician, Thomas Mapfumo, amongst others, in the band The Wagon Wheels. The singer was also the lead artist of the band, The Black Spirits. He was active in the music industry until the day he died. His latest album Hany’Ga (Concern) was released in 2018. The ten-track LP is supported by the single Matope.

Mtukudzi released over 60 albums in his career. His debut album, titled Ndipeiwo Zano, which was originally released in 1978, as well as the album Africa, were both re-released in the year 2000. The 2001 album Neria spawned the mega-hit title track, which is one of his most well-known songs alongside the song Todii.

The musician’s death comes exactly a year after the passing of his friend and fellow musician, Hugh Masekela on Tuesday, 23 January 2018. The two jazz legends were very fond of each other and worked together on a few projects, some of which were never completed. “We had a few songs that we were recording in my studio, it’s unfortunately an unfinished story,” Mtukudzi said in an interview with SABC on Tuesday, 23 January 2018.

The pair collaborated on Masekela’s song Tapera which comes off the 2016 album No Borders. Mtukudzi inspired three generations of African music lovers and was known for his people-centered approach to music.  Afro Jazz singer, Berita, had the pleasure of working with the two musical giants as they were both featured artists on the song Mwana Wa Mai.

The singer took to Twitter on Thursday, 24 January 2019, to express her heartfelt condolences to Mtukudzi’s family.

“I’m still processing this new reality,” she said. “My heart is with mom, Mrs Mtukudzi, Shami, Wally and the rest of the Mtukudzi family.” She added that she felt inspired by the musician. “I will walk with you every step of the way. Your spirit lives within me. I celebrate you. Legends don’t die, they multiply,” she said.

Mtukudzi’s impact extended to nations across the ocean with tours in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. He was one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated artists, singing in the country’s Shona and Ndebele languages. During the course of his career, the musician was honoured with approximately sixteen accolades for his artistic work. He also dedicated his time to humanitarian and philanthropic efforts, reaching out to the people he wrote music for. The multi-award winning talent was 66 years old when he died.