They say Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle through his music, sadly I cannot comment on that because I am a born free, as people like to say, though I am skeptical about my ‘freeness’…but that’s a topic for another day.
What I can comment on is how the legendary Tuku’s songs worked to console the bereaved, condemn ill treatment of the powerless, decry HIV/AIDS, advocate for equal rights, foster women and children empowerment, expose social decay, question politicians and so on.
However, to me the jazz icon will be fondly remembered by most Zimbabweans for his philanthropic artistic work of promoting peace, unity and equality.
His music is no doubt a social commentary par excellence addressing socio-economic and political issues affecting the livelihoods of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
He would dab from societal rot like domestic violence, witchcraft and crime to power abuses and politics.
He however avoided taking a clear political stand but an analysis of some of his lyrics reveals a subtle touch on politics.
Whilst encompassing pan-Africanism, his music also vehemently advocated for the emancipation of Zimbabweans from their subjugation by their fellow kinsman though in a veiled manner.
Songs such as Bvuma and Murimi mhunu (2001) were all a work of art drawn to challenge those in power.
Bvuma was interpreted as a message to the former nonagenarian, President Robert Mugabe, to accept that he was too old to keep holding on to power.
Murimi mhunu (farmers are human) is an ambiguous song timely released a year after the land reform programme. Though in the song Tuku was praising farmers for their crucial role in society, the coincidence is too much for us to dismiss that it was also a message intended to Mugabe’s administration after the inhuman attacks of white farmers.
His courageous character erased him from Zanu PF’s good books.
It is for that reason that the ‘Bvuma wasakara’ hit maker once found himself under siege with Mugabe’s administration for taking lyrical jibes at the leader and his government.
The tiff between him and the former president reportedly escalated to an extent that it is alleged Mugabe may have had a hand in the death of Sam Mtukudzi, son to Oliver.
Sam’s controversial death is one sad love story in which allegedly after a discovery was made that he was dating Mugabe’s daughter, Bona, he became an enemy of the state.
Nonetheless, those are unfounded allegations and this is not a good time to pierce our already swollen hearts with past pain, rather we celebrate Tuku’s legendary life to console our broken souls.
Another song, Neria (1993) is a consoling melody for widows whilst Todii (1999) was a decry of the HIV pandemic which at the time was taking toll in the African continent.
The list is endless since Tuku has over 50 albums to his name. Street Kid, Dzoka Uyamwe, Tozeza baba, Panorwadza moyo, to mention but a few, were all artistic social commentaries.
Good deeds indeed speak for themselves, Oliver Mtukudzi was given the Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Children’s Fund by UNICEF and the coveted Cavaliere of the Order of Merit bestowed on him by the Italian government.
Many organisations also endorsed him as their ambassador.
Social media is awash with condolence messages attesting to how loved and respected he was in his motherland & beyond.
It is a good thing to see that young artists like Winky D and Tocky Vibes are taking after him as social commentators. Tuku will surely be always an iconic figure and role model in our music industry.
Indeed, a giant has fallen in the field of political activism. So to say, if any one has ever fearlessly exercised their right to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, Tuku is undoubtedly one of those people.
Rest in Peace father, leader, activist, feminist, hero, artist, musician par excellence. Your legacy lives on!