OLIVER Mtukudzi – affectionately known as Tuku – has hogged the limelight across the world for many years because of his extraordinary music that plumbs the very depths of human emotions across race and geographical locations.
Tuku is a well–loved musician whose simplicity has made him a darling to music fans across the world.
Little, however, is known about his life off stage, but this is set to change following the first unofficial tell-all biography penned by his former publicist, journalist Shepherd Mutamba. The book spills out behind-the-scenes secrets and it remains to be seen whether or not this will in any way redefine public perception of this living legend.
Questions have been raised over the author’s motive in writing the book, giving his own relationships with Tuku over many years, having worked for him as a publicist. Before delving into the book, it’s important to appreciate that although the circumstances surrounding its writing may be controversial, its contents are not entirely Mutamba’s opinions, but “facts” provided by the people that are very close to Tuku himself.
The greatest damage to his hitherto sanitised public image is done by his own, including his wife Daisy and his “estranged” daughters, particularly Sandra and Selmor. If information supplied by these two is anything to go by, then it would appear that Tuku’s relationship with these two has irretrievably broken down. The two come out as angry, aggrieved young women, insinuating that if not for Daisy, perhaps their relationship with their father could have been different.
Tuku is portrayed as a hard father who wants his children to develop a strong work ethic and not sit back to enjoy the benefits of Tuku’s fame and fortune. While at face value there might not be anything wrong with this kind of parenting approach, it remains debatable whether or not the extent to which Tuku did it can be justified.
The story on the estranged relationship Tuku has with Selmor and Sandra was published by arts journalist Wonder Guchu on his blog. In one of the published emails written by Selmor, she says bitingly: “I wish someone would write the whole truth. I am tired of people asking me why I don’t have certain things or why I don’t have a better car. I am tired of coming up with excuses for my father . . . I do understand though if you don’t want any part in this, I mean no one wants to write anything bad about their legend . . . I just want my dad to see that people know that he treats me bad coz of his 2nd wife (Daisy).”(pp.58-59).
Interestingly, Tuku’s only son and second child with Daisy, Sam (late) comes out as having easily bought into their father’s “regime” because being the son of a legend did not mean everything should come on a silver platter. He had to use public transport when he went for shows and also paid for using his father’s equipment. He went on to produce exceptional music.
From reading the book, it would appear that Sam was very close to his father, but the question is, was it because he was Daisy’s son, or simply because he abided by his father’s dictates without question unlike the “bitter” Selmor who felt being Tuku’s daughter should have entitled her to certain privileges and consequently fired up her own music career?
Sam, too, appeared to be a glittering gem amidst the rubble of Tuku’s shattered relationship with his daughters and misunderstandings with his wife. Mutamba writes: “He (Sam) was warm and down to earth and humble for a son of an icon and would use public buses and nobody would notice him . . . If you met Sam and did not like him instantly, there was something wrong with you. He was a lovable young man and very debonair . . . Even at the tender age of twenty-one, Sam would mediate and bring his father and mother together when there was friction. If Sam was alive today I bet the antagonism between his sisters Selmor and Sandra and their father would not have deteriorated to the point where they do not see eye to eye . . . Sam was the bond that held the family together. His fortitude, charm and wit united everyone. The boy is missed dearly.” (pp. 43-44).
While Mutamba admits that Tuku is an exceptional musician whose contribution to world music is immense, he seems to worry about his moral failings, particularly his life’s failure to exemplify what he preaches in his music.
In many ways this is a fairly balanced book, digging up both the good and the bad that make up the whole, which is Tuku. Tuku’s wife, Daisy, provides perhaps the most damaging details, particularly about Tuku’s wandering eye, notwithstanding the fact that she herself came into the picture when Tuku was already married to Melody. This forced Melody to apply for divorce in 1986, although it was finally granted in 1993.
The arrival of Daisy into his life did not cure him of that weakness for women, according to Daisy’s own admission.
“I told the (Tuku’s) father that Tuku had too many girlfriends and it was difficult for me to live with such a man,” she admitted (pp.84).
She revealed further interesting details about Tuku and their marriage when she said: “But Tuku hides too many things in his heart and I am sure that makes him sick. He thinks by keeping things to himself things will be okay . . . I wanted to shoot Tuku. I have a firearm. I don’t like people who twist me and lie to me. He drove me into a corner . . . Yes, things can be sorted out after the fracas, but then you will know.”
Chapter 7 (“Mwendy’s Diary”) tells of the affair between Tuku and one of his backing vocalists, Mwendakanyi Chibindi, and includes excerpts from her diary in which she documented her relationship with the music icon.
In the book, Daisy does not hide her love for the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, and it would appear that they are fairly close. She admires the First Lady’s diligence and says in many ways, they are alike: “I will give you an example of women who are hardworking. The First Lady, she is a very hardworking person even though people say this and that about her. Grace has the same business mind like me. She is a woman of principle and is not lazy. I can’t say we are friends. I like her, she likes me.
People say intimidating things about her . . . People expect too much from her, yet she is only human . . .” (pp90).
What any reader would likely find unacceptable is the manner in which employees at Pakare Paye Arts Centre are treated. It is perhaps a rather interesting disclosure that despite his monumental success in his music career, Tuku, also faces challenges in paying his employees. It will always be a point of conjecture, however, whether or not he does this deliberately even when he has the money, which Mutamba claims the superstar would rather pour into the development of the arts centre.
There are many more “revelations” about Tuku in this book. While a lot of these “secrets” may be damaging, the publication of the book and surrounding circumstances demonstrate the need for our artistes to write their own stories.