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An ode to Oliver Mtukudzi

31 Jan 2019 at 10:28hrs | Views
Oliver Mtukudzi achieved both in life and in death what our national leaders have failed to do: uniting a deeply polarised and fractured nation.
Such was his greatness.

In life, he performed at a ceremony to celebrate the appointment of Joice Mujuru as Vice-President of Zimbabwe and second secretary of Zanu-PF. Mujuru is a daughter of Mashonaland Central province where Mtukudzi came from and at the carnival, Tuku performed the song Dzoka Uyamwe in salutation of the political achievement by a woman he referred to as the girl from Dande.

After that performance, some said Tuku was Zanu-PF.

Tuku then performed at former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's wedding in Harare in 2012 and last February, he was in Buhera when we buried Zimbabwe's doyen of democracy at his rural home at Humanikwa village.

After that performance in 2012 and his appearance last year in Buhera, some said Tuku was MDC.

In this politically divided nation, it was only Tuku who could afford to live his life well beyond the political party card; beyond partisan regalia and party slogans. Partisan politics was too petty for his vast character.

Tuku, the legend buried in Madziwa on Sunday, was simply far much bigger than our fractured politics.

In the soft requiem of death, Tuku has unified our divided politics. At his death, we saw Nelson Chamisa, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joyce Mujuru casting aside their political jackets to attend the funeral of this hero of Zimbabwe. The vastness of Tuku's character had ample space for this deeply divided political lot.

Such was the unifying nature of this lyrical master of our time; indeed an undisputed national hero.

He died as he lived — simply as an artiste.

I have long memories of Oliver Mtukudzi that stretch some 20 years back to my other life as a journalist.

I remember covering the launch of one of his most controversial albums to date, Bvuma/Tolerance, at a joint along Julius Nyerere Avenue in central Harare. The place was full to the brim and the inimitable Mtukudzi was forced mid-stream to cut short his performance of the controversial song, Wasakara.

He abruptly stopped performing after his fans literally plucked the song from his lips, flashed out red cards and started infusing their own lyrics into a song that was to take the country by storm. Robert Mugabe was not even 80 at the time but his age had already become a topical national issue. Music fans believed Mtukudzi's song, Wasakara, was a reference to Mugabe's age. He was a master of perfect art, which often has multiple meanings to multiple listeners in multiple circumstances.

The red cards had become part of the MDC's campaign paraphernalia, which the party's supporters would symbolically bandy around as a send off sign for Mugabe to leave the political stage due to his old age.

Stamping their feet and singing wildly in mock rendition of Mtukudzi's powerful lyrics, I can still vividly remember the sonorous unison of wild music fans infusing their own lyrics in mockery of Mugabe's old age: "Nyika yese yati wakwegura hauchaigona wachembera, wakuraka usazoramba Bob bvuma (The whole country is agreed that you can't govern because you are too old. Bob (Mugabe's nickname), you must just admit you are now old).

Probably afraid of political repercussions during those highly charged political times, Mtukudzi stopped the song mid-stream during the album launch and called for a break.

When I sought his comment during the crowd-induced hiatus, a visibly shaken Tuku, unnerved by the moment, calmly said to me: "Tamborenyoka, this is the time when I want to speak to my fans. I do not wish to grant interviews to journalists during my shows. Let us talk tomorrow."

Weeks later, the controversial Wasakara was to lead to the arrest of an audacious lighting engineer for invariably blazing the lights on Mugabe's portrait every time Tuku shouted "Bvuma iwe" during a live performance at a local hotel.

Tuku's music fascinated the nation, charmed revelers and consoled the bereaved.

My maternal uncle, Constantine Makumbe, is a Tuku fan. But my paternal uncle, Thomas Gombera, now a pastor, was a fundamentalist of Tuku music. Through his influence, the entire family ended up warming to Mtukudzi's powerful lyrics. Somehow, we all ended up Tuku's ardent fans.

At one of our family end of year shindigs, way back on December 20 1990, I remember the whole family aping Tuku's lyrics at a colourful bash that spilt into the early hours of the following morning:

"Kumhuri yekwedu, haungadaro, Carol…" we boomed, slotting in my sister's name for colour and rhyme in a deafening chant that reverberated in the nearby Dambatsoko mountain. We were enjoying ourselves at our rural homestead at Tamborenyoka village in Domboshava and my sister, Carol, was only eight then.
Indeed, Tuku's music would cut across generations, nations, tribes and political parties.

It was Tuku who almost provided the sound-track to the real-life movie of my near-demise.

When I was involved in a near-fatal accident in the company of my uncle and brothers as we drove home in the early hours of Sunday, November 4 2012, it was Tuku's lyrics that almost accompanied us to our death. Playing in the car in what almost became the lyrical backdrop to our deaths was the album Abi Angu, a collection of Tuku's collaborative effort with his friends.

Luke Tamborinyoka is a multiple award-winning journalist. His passion during his journalism days was politics and the arts. He is currently the director of communications in the MDC. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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