Artistes must pen own stories

THE world is still caught up in the loss of music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, who used music to touch the lives of many people; not only in
Zimbabwe, but across the world, too.

Between the Lines: Beniah Munengwa

You don’t mourn such legends. You celebrate their legacy. But with all the praises being sung all around about what Tuku represented to different people at different times, I am disappointed that he did not leave us with an official biography written by his own hand.

While United States-based academic and ethnomusicologist, Jennifer Kyker, officially unveiled Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe in 2016, it centred primarily on Tuku as a musician, leaving out the other roles he played as a husband, father, friend etc.

The other is the controversial Tuku Backstage, with two editions written by his former publicist, Shepherd Mutamba.

This presents a challenge to other living legends like Thomas Mapfumo, Alick Macheso, Mechanic Manyeruke, former President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, Sport minister Kirsty Coventry and former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, among others, to start considering penning their own accounts.

From the time of the slave trade, autobiographical accounts and memoirs have empowered people to remove the smokescreen disrupting their vision into the future and move forward using accounts and experiences of others.

An autobiography by Tuku would have been like a manual on how to spread love and touch humanity in a special way. More so, it would have acted as an instruction on how to run a business like Pakare Paye Arts Centre, a template on how to compose music in order to blossom and have fame; but at the same time, be immune to being taken away by fame and remain humble.

It must be understood that Tuku was not an artiste of a limited time scale. Rather, he was there from before independence to post-independent Zimbabwe.

This, on its own, shows that he, as a griot, saw Zimbabwe unfold into what it has grown or degenerated to become.

In that vein, I am sure that a word or two from him would have guaranteed that we, at least get, a sober revelation on how the Zimbabwean dream could be realised, preserved or reawakened, depending on how he viewed it.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, a detailed account by South African comedian Trevor Noah, reveals the state of South African race
relations through the eyes of a young man of mixed race. Noah, after having gained some social mileage, uses his social capital to invest in the process of rewiring a dysfunctional society that is also in a way like Zimbabwe.

An artiste, thus, should play a role in documenting his life.

Frederick Douglas’ narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglas, a former American slave, still inspires generations inspite of it being written close to two centuries ago.

Jackie Chan’s Never Grow Up is one other example of texts that are an evidence of opening up on career and the sharing of one’s flaws. Jackie Chan reveals that he “slept around, drove drunk and threw a toddler child of his to the wall”, all of which reminds us that even the best of people have flaws and they, too, need guidance from others.

But the absence of texts to Tuku’s name does not affect the legacy that remains pinned to the name of a philanthropist, activist, artiste and family man, who is revered by all. We will sing and rejoice from the songs that inspire and teach us what he has left us from his 66 albums, singles and collaborations. It is now left for us to push forward the word and practice of love and care.

It, however, remains my wish to encourage people of high stature to document their lives, for in many other accounts, there is confusion, a confusion that can only be dispelled by what a person has to say on their own.

1 Comment

  1. Nhamoinesu Makombe

    I quite agree with the observations made in this article and encourage people to write their own biographies. On the other hand I think people like our legend Mr “Tuku” have written their biography through song. It just requires a dedicated and impartial scholar to sit down and analyse Tuku’s music from the beginning, interview those who have worked and known Tuku and write an official biography before it is too late.

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