Declaring Tuku Day not a bad idea The late Dr Oliver Mtukudzi

Clive ‘Mono’ Mukundu

Musicologist & Music Producer

Dr Oliver Mtukudzi’s posthumous birthday was celebrated at Pakare Paye Arts Centre on October 30th. Tuku would have turned 71 on September 22. 

The Mtukudzi family has inherited the tradition of marking the legend’s birth each year.

Author and poet Chirikure Chirikure, theatre professional Daves Guzha, Bob Nyabinde, legislator Brian Mudhumi from Masvingo, former Norton MP Temba Mliswa, Norton councillor Tinashe Machemedze, Cde Taka Mashonganyika, who came in the company of his mother, and many others attended the Pakare Paye event, which was a private gathering.

In her speech, Tuku’s widow, Daisy, thanked her late husband’s friends for their support during his illness, passing on and even up until this point.

These individuals included Chirikure Chirikure, Guzha and Mliswa. 

Mrs Mtukudzi corroborated her account of Mliswa’s spontaneous offer to pay Tuku’s medical bill by saying that he did indeed keep his word and covered the entire bill on his own. 

Mliswa did not make his charitable contributions known until Mrs Mtukudzi brought it up, in contrast to other people who give to demonstrate their altruism.

A Mbira group and the incredibly talented new Gweru band, 911 Band, were the main sources of entertainment. With a very polished act, the 911 Band thrilled the crowd. 

What particularly impressed the audience was how the band’s lead vocalist alternated between his voice and a Tuku-sounding voice every time he covered Mtukudzi’s songs, in addition to the group’s stage presence and attire. 

When they sang Bob Nyabinde’s hit song “Chabuda Hapana,” the lead vocalist went to sit next to Bob Nyabinde and gave him the microphone. 

Nyabinde joined in and even contributed some improvised humour, much to the joy of the audience.

Jackson Phiri and Steve Chikoti, who had come all the way from Mutare to play, were among the other artists who took to the stage. 

One of the MCs asked myself, Samantha Mtukudzi, Fiona, Sam Mataure and the 911 band to participate in an impromptu jam session with the band towards the close of the evening.

Some of us in the arts sector desire that Mtukudzi’s birthday be designated as Oliver Mtukudzi Day, similar to how February 6th, Bob Marley’s birthday, is recognised as Bob Marley Day by reggae enthusiasts and music lovers throughout the world.

Bob Marley Day was created in Marley’s native Jamaica, but ultimately spread everywhere around the world. 

The mayor of Toronto, Canada, for example, officially declared February 6, 2018, as Bob Marley Day.

From the perspective of Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi is the country’s version of Bob Marley. Looking at his life and career, so many lessons can be drawn. 

The biggest lesson is that of national pride. Mtukudzi always encouraged youngsters to be proud to be Zimbabweans, be it in music or in their general lifestyle. Having worked and travelled with him around the world, I saw the benefits of embracing one’s culture. Everywhere he performed, he was never treated as an underdog because he was playing a genre from his own country.

Mtukudzi’s legacy will benefit from the concept of paying tribute to him in this way, but the nation will also benefit from it as it will cement Tuku’s position as a role model for Zimbabwean musicians for generations to come. 

Role models who look like him are few for black people everywhere. 

Even consciously preventing Africans from having role models from their own race was something that colonialists did. 

Patrice Lumumba’s history, who served as the DRC’s first president, is a good example. 

When Lumumba was executed by a firing squad on January 17, 1961, together with Joseph Okito, his deputy president of the senate, and Maurice Mpolo, his minister of youth and sports, they saw to it that his body was irrevocably destroyed. 

Thus, on January 21, Gérard, Michael, and their local helpers got to work, dissolving Lumumba’s body in sulphuric acid provided by the massive Union Minière mine in Belgium. 

They chopped the body up limb by limb. Following the ritual, only the bones and two front teeth remained; they burned and dispersed the bones and kept the teeth as a trophy. 

The main goal was to prevent Lumumba from having a physical grave because if there was, it would be preserved as a shrine or monument to his legacy, thereby illuminating him as a role model. 

When Lumumba was finally given a burial on June 30, 2022, which was 62 years after his death, the only thing that was in his whole coffin was his tooth, which was recovered from a Belgian soldier, Gérard Soete, who took the tooth as a trophy.

Someone you like, look up to, and aspire to mimic is referred to as a role model. Having a successful role model can be crucial to one`s success. 

We are inspired, helped, guided, or prompted to live life to the fullest by our role models. They are essential to our growth, development and self-improvement because they provide us something to aim for or against which we use to measure ourselves. 

A role model is someone who serves as an inspiration to others. Someone deserving of imitation.

When we look at the history of the Zimbabwean music scene, I can’t think of another performer who can rival Mtukudzi in this regard.

One thing that fuels self-hatred is a lack of positive role models. Some Zimbabweans have even gone so far as to praise global role models while disparaging their own country’s. 

This was shown when some objected to Mbuya Nehanda’s statue’s erection, which they saw as idolatry, but did not complain about Cecil John Rhodes’ grave or David Livingstone’s monument.

Last but not least, it would be dishonest to neglect applauding Daisy Mtukudzi and her staff for their outstanding effort upholding the Pakare Paye Centre’s standards, which greatly improves Mtukudzi’s legacy. 

The building is always busy with activity from music students, diners and organisations who rent conference rooms strewn over the structure.

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