HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsThanks for the awesome music, Tuku

Thanks for the awesome music, Tuku


I last saw Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi perform live at the NewsDay first anniversary bash in June last year at the Harare  Gardens main stage. What a day it was! I came, I saw — and I was conquered.

Report by Conway Tutani
That was a masterstroke for a new brand — NewsDay — to be associated with Mtukudzi, a long-established, enduring brand which has grown from strength to strength.

I did not attend Tuku’s 60th birthday bash last Friday, but my friend, businessman Tony Mutero, who runs a popular joint in the central business district of Harare, did attend and was all effusive the next day as he recounted to me a truly memorable night of masterful performances with Tuku himself at the centre along with his “music friends” from the veteran Dorothy Masuka, who has been in the show business game since the 1950s, to upcoming young talent such as Jah Prayzah, who is causing waves on the local scene. I was not surprised. It couldn’t have gone any other way.

Tuku, as I see it, has always been driven by self-actualisation. Self-actualising here is defined as a person who is in the process of fulfilling their potential, a person who always regards himself as work in progress. Despite the fame and fortune he has achieved, Tuku has never stopped growing. That’s why he is still going strong.

Said Tuku: “I do not feel any old at 60. I am energetic and strong, still like the same Oliver who was once one-year-old . . .”

Dr Richard Boyum, a counselling psychologist and mental health expert, describes a self-actualising person as having, among others characteristics, these:
Individuals who are aware of the fact that they are not perfect, that they are as human as the next person, and that there are constantly new things to learn and new ways to grow.

Such a person, although comfortable with himself, never stops striving. That is why Tuku collaborates with fellow musicians from the 70-something Masuka to the youthful Jah Prayzah, who is in his 20s. I don’t buy that nostalgic nonsense that today’s youngsters don’t sing like in the past. It’s a mere generation thing; old-timers will be mourning an era gone when they were in their prime — the past is glorious after it has gone.

The self-actualising person is generally strongly focused on problems outside of himself. He is concerned with the problems of others and the problems of society, and is willing to work to try to alleviate those difficulties. There is a strong feeling of togetherness; self-actualising people have a feeling for all of mankind. They are aware and sensitive to the people that are about them.


Sings Tuku: Hooo, todini /senzeni/what shall we do/tingadii/senzenjani, what shall we do/Zvinorwadza sei kurera rufu mumaoko (How painful it is to look after someone you know is gonna die/Kana uinawo utachiwana (when they have Aids).

There are a few songs as strong and memorable as this one.

Self-actualising people tend to believe in the equal nature of human beings, that every individual has a right to say, and that each person has his strengths and each person has his weaknesses.

Tuku’s 2001 album Bvuma/Tolerance reflected what the country was going through at the time, a very turbulent time (farm killings, spreading political violence and shocking murders etc).

How could people be so cruel? How could they do that to others?

Tuku put this to music and this resonated well with the people.

There was a huge gap between what the generality of the populace saw on the ground and the self-serving, sanitised interpretation of the events by the ruling class. The government seemed to care more about global injustices than about gross injustices here at home wrought by its own hand. They insisted — and still insist — on accountability for others — particularly the much-hated West — but not for themselves.


Now the situation is not one of overtly political oppression as diamond wealth has come into the picture with the politically well-connected getting fabulously rich from ill-gotten gains of semi-official looting. Said Tuku last week, leaders should give more attention to people and their needs, “not certain classes, but all people”  — not for personal enrichment.

He distinguishes between means and ends. From slavery, to colonialism, now the ugly face of classism reigns with Africa having the widest income gap among all continents. But the good thing is that Tuku hasn’t tired of raising these issues. He has been indefatigable.

He distinguishes between good and bad, but does not twist them in a way that hurts others or cheapens his message. Now, can you compare this to the crude, X-rated lyrics of Last “Blair Toilet” Tambaoga who was totally rejected by the market despite excessive airplay? Tuku cautions and admonishes without being scornful or mocking. You can succeed in show business without showmanship.

Tuku’s message today is still as timely as it was in the 1970s when he began this long, successful journey. How many times has a song changed you? How many times has music reduced stress levels, anxiety, confusion, even violence on each other?

I am sure the wisdom Tuku has put into the words of his excellently melodious songs has been a healer in the lives of many, many people.
Huchi, mdhara!


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  1. The onus is now on us to lobby the academic fraternity to bestow on King Oliver the much deserved and long awaited honorory doctorate of the Arts.I wholy believed that Tuku’s 60th. anniversary would have coincided with such an accolade but alas i was mistaken.Our academics would rather pamper and flatter politicians in the long running ruling party than bestow honours to those members of our small society who have excelled and put our tiny country on the world stage,Tuku being one such.The multitude of state and privately owned universities in our country seem to think otherwise.I fully acknowledged the honorory degree afforded Dr Thomas Mapfumo by a foreign university and I hope sooner rather than later Oliver Mutukudzi will also receive the same if not even an honorary professorship of the arts.

  2. Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.|

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