Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Things You Did Not Know About Oliver Mtukudzi.

Oliver Mtukudzi, also known as “Tuku” (short for Mtukudzi) was a singer-songwriter, actor, writer, film director and entrepreneur. With over 60 albums to his name, he was one of Zimbabwe’s top musicians and lead of the band The Black Spirits. 

His music was mainly in the Afro-Jazz genre. Mtukudzi’s career spanned 5 decades from the 70s to the 2010s, having started in 1975 when he did his debut single Stop after Orange.

Mtukudzi had his own music label ‘Tuku Music’ which is also the name of his apparel label. Mtukudzi was a lead actor in the movies Jiti and Neria released in the 90s. Mtukudzi wrote and directed the live musical production Was My Child. Mtukudzi was one of the few Zimbabweans whose music has international appeal.

Mtukudzi died on the afternoon of 23 January at Avenues in Harare, after being ill with diabetes. He was declared a National Hero by the Zanu-PF Politburo which meant that he could be buried at the National Heroes Acre. His family, however, decided to bury him at his rural home in Madziva.

Following his death, the City of Harare announced that it would rename Willowvale road to Oliver Mtukudzi road.


Mtukudzi was born on the 22nd of September 1952 in Highfield, was the first born in a family of seven siblings. His parents both sang and actually met at a competition of church choirs. His parents continued to sing and compete amongst themselves (parents) and drew in Oliver and his siblings as the judges. This musical environment drew him to music. Mtukudzi developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life due to the premature death of his father. He had four sisters and one brother.


Mtukudzi’s music career started at the age of 23 with the 1975 release of his debut single, Stop After Orange. It’s been stated widely, including on Mtukudzi’s own website that in 1977 he teamed up with Zimbabwe top musician, Thomas Mapfumo, at a famous band called Wagon Wheels that being his official entry into the Zimbabwean music industry. Mapfumo, however, denied this saying,

“I was coming from Mutare myself where we were contracted at a hotel in Dangamvura. When I returned to Harare, that’s when I met Oliver. He was practising at James Bond’s place because this guy used to own equipment, so a lot of youngsters used to go there just to practice music. After I met Oliver, we had a short tour together. I was already singing my Shona music, and he was playing something strange… he was playing the guitar, singing a song like… we used to call the song Green for Go and Red for Stop.

“I said to him, ‘you guy, why don’t you sing in your mother’s language?’ He was a good guy, he took my advice. He even asked for one of my songs Tamba Zvako Marujata (Rova Ngoma Mutavara). It was a traditional tune, which I used to sing myself. He came to me and asked if he could record the music and I said you can go on and record it. It came out beautifully and everybody liked it, and I also thought it was a good song.”
Things You Did Not Know About Oliver Mtukudzi.

With the Wagon Wheels, Mtukudzi recorded Dzandimomotera, a song inspired directly by the Second Chimurenga. Dzandimomotera depicted the black man’s life struggles under the white minority government.

One account says Mtukudzi left the group in 1978 to form his own group The Black Spirits and released the album Ndipiweo Zano. The Album was a hit. Mtukudzi said he intended to use the name Wagon Wheels with the new group but the Wagon Wheels managers found other musicians to continue with the band, which forced Mtukudzi to find a new name for his band. Mtukudzi took several of the Wagon Wheels musicians with him to The Black Spirits.

Another account, however, taken from an interview Mapfumo had with New Zimbabwe says The Black Spirits was actually Mapfumo’s group first:

The Black Spirits (now the name of Mtukudzi’s band) was my band,” Mapfumo says. “He was with Wagon Wheels, and then they changed it to Black Spirits. Our Black Spirits disbanded, and then we formed the Blacks Unlimited. He never played with Blacks Unlimited; he was with Wagon Wheels before they changed their name to Black Spirits. We played together on that short tour when he was singing Red for Stop and Green for Go. At that time, that group had no name when we toured… it was just Green for Go and Red for Stop.


Though generally considered to be Afro-Jazz, Mtukudzi’s style of music was a fusion of a Zimbabwean music style called Jiti, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan called Katekwe, marimba, and South African mbaqanga as well as modern genres such as Afro-pop. The introduction of a keyboard to his music in the early 80s is said to have been influenced by West Nkosi, a well known South African producer who produced for Tuku in his early career.

Mtukudzi himself labelled his music “Tuku Music”. He says however that “My fans were the first to describe my music as Tuku Music but it was only around the mid-1990s that I began to develop it as a brand name.”

Collaboration with Mathias Mhere.

Between 2014 and 2015, Tuku worked helped a young gospel Musician Mathias Mhere in one of his albums. Mtukudzi was featured on the song Tsano Handei, an extract from the biblical verse found in the book of Numbers. Tsano Handei was extracted from Numbers 10 where Moses and his brother-in-law Hobab were prominently featured discussing the divine commissioned-journey from Mt Sinai to Canaan. This was not a new thing for Tuku since his career had always been spiced by collaborations with other local artists. In the recent past, he did successful collaborations with EX-Q and Fungisai Zvakavapano in projects which were well-received by the market.


In 2011 the Forbes magazine included him in the Top 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa in a list that included Akon, Chinua Achebe and Didier Drogba.[10] The message in his music prompted the United Nations to consider him as the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador in Eastern and Southern Africa for children development and HIV awareness.

Pakare Paye Arts Centre.

In 2003, Mtukudzi founded an institution of arts called Pakare Paye Arts Centre to develop and nurture young talent in various practical artistic endeavours, particularly music, dance, drama, poetry, and story-telling. The centre is constructed at an old industrial site in the small farming town of Norton, west of Harare. The centre has an auditorium, a curio shop, restaurant, editing suite, a show arena with a stage, and a bar.

Personal life.

Mtukudzi was married to Daisy, and the two have five children and two grandchildren. He was the father of five children. He was reported to have other children outside his marriage. One of his sons is the late Sam Mtukudzi was also an Afro-Jazz musician. Mtukudzi had two daughters with his first wife, Melody Murape. Their names are Selmor Mtukudzi (herself a musician) and Sandra Selmour complained publicly that her dad does not support her music career.

He penned the song ‘Svovi’ for his wife.

Mtukudzi dedicated the album ‘Sarawoga’ to his departed son Sam Mtukudzi, who died in a car accident on 15 March 2010.


Mtukudzi died on 23 JANUARY 2019 from diabetes. He had been admitted to Avenues Clinic in Harare. Hundreds of popular people, fellow musicians and other prominent people attended his funeral. The president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa attended and spoke at his funeral. The opposition leader, MDC-Alliance President Nelson Chamisa also attended and spoke at the funeral.

Mtukudzi was declared a National Hero on 24 January 2019. His family, however, decided to bury him in Madziva. His funeral was covered by the stated and a tribute concert & public funeral was held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare in his honour before his body was flown to his rural home in Madziva.



Daisy loved her son but they had their own tense moments on certain issues that prompted Sam to leave the family home to stay at one of Tuku’s mansions across town in Norton.

It was reported widely in the country’s media that Mtukudzi had a love affair with one of his backing vocalists, the late Mendy Chimbindi. Mtukudzi is said to have not commented on the issue.

Unauthorised Biography.

In 2014 Mtukudzi announced that a ‘biography’ written about him by former band publicist Shepherd Mutamba, was unauthorizedly saying the biography was damaging to him and his family. He said Mutamba had divulged some sensitive family matters without seeking his consent. Mtukudzi said Mutamba had agreed to show him the manuscript of the biography before publishing it but that the publicist reneged from this agreement and Mtukudzi was surprised to see excerpts from the book printed in the local newspaper, Daily News.

The book, Mtukudzi said, contained “so many made-up ‘facts’, half-truths and false interpretations of my life? Why would someone who was warmly welcomed into our camp and treated with great respect want to pull me down like this Everything about the book that I have seen so far is an attack on me? Nothing positive at all. Is that Mutamba’s summary of who I am as a man? ”

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