Oliver Mtukudzi

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Dr Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi
Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits
Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits
Background information
Born(1952-09-22)22 September 1952
Highfield, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
(modern-day Harare, Zimbabwe)
Died23 January 2019(2019-01-23) (aged 66)
Harare, Zimbabwe
GenresAfro Jazz
Years active1977-2019
Associated actsThomas Mapfumo, Simon Chimbetu, System Tazvida, Winky D, Hugh Masekela, Ringo Madlingozi, Jah Prayzah, Josh Meck, Suluman Chimbetu, Tryson Chimbetu Gary Tight

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi (22 September 1952 – 23 January 2019) was a Zimbabwean musician, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region. Tuku was considered to have been Zimbabwe's most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time.


Mtukudzi grew up in Highfield, a poor neighborhood in Salisbury (modern-day Harare) in Southern Rhodesia, as the eldest of six siblings.[1] While both his parents sang in a choir, they were initially not supportive of his continued interest in music, consequently breaking his first homemade guitar.[2]

In 1975, at the age of 23, he released his debut single, "Stop After Orange." Two years later, he began performing with the Wagon Wheels, a group that featured another highly influential musician, Thomas Mapfumo. Although his tenure with the band was relatively short-lived, he landed his first major hit with 1977's "Dzandimomotera," a song that reflected the black population's struggles under white-minority rule of what was then still the country of Rhodesia. By 1978, he had left the Wagon Wheels, taking several of the band's musicians with him to form his new backing group the Black Spirits.[3]

In February 1979, Oliver married his first wife Melody Murape. The wedding, which boasted a staggering 48 bridesmaids was held at Gwanzura Stadium. The couple was blessed with two beautiful daughters, Sandra (born August 1979) and Selmor (born August 1983).

Having established himself in the late '70s, his popularity soared after Zimbabwe won its independence in 1980 and in the years that followed, he released a string of successful albums and branched out into acting as well, starring in his country's first two nationally made films, Jit (1990) and Neria (1992). Though well-known at home and throughout Southern Africa, it wasn't until the release of 1999's Tuku Music that the international music community took notice. During the 2000s and 2010s, Mtukudzi became a regular on the world music circuit, touring Europe and North America frequently while become increasingly involved as a philanthropist and human rights advocate in Zimbabwe, to extent that in 2012 he was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. [4]

In addition to appearing in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music, including the BBC-produced Under African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira, he starred in 1990's Jit, the first film featuring an all-Zimbabwean cast. He also played a prominent role in, as well as composed and arranged the soundtrack for, Zimbabwe's second film, Neria, in 1992. In 1993, Mtukudzi arranged the soundtrack for the movie, I Am The Future. This saw him introduce his daughter Selmor on the Showbiz stage as she sang on the sound track and also appeared in the movie at the age of 10. Mtukudzi also subsequently wrote and directed the musical production Was My Child (Plight of Street Children) in 1995, all the while continuing to record albums and tour accompanied by the Black Spirits or the 12-piece supergroup Mahube. In 1999 he released the album Tuku Music which was a widespread success, effectively delivering Mtukudzi's music to a global audience and faring especially well in the U.S., where it topped the CMJ New Work Music charts for 11 weeks. Shortly after its release, Mtukudzi toured the United States and Canada, along with Taj Mahal, Toumani Diabate, and Baaba Maal, as part of Africa Fête 1999. His next album, Paivepo, topped Zimbabwe's music charts and continued to establish his fame in the west. A 2002 documentary, Shanda, told his life's story up to that point and later that year, he was championed by American artist Bonnie Raitt, who covered one of his songs on her album Silver Lining. Over the coming years, Mtukudzi continued working as he always had, touring frequently and issuing a new album nearly every year in between the various anthologies and reissues of his earlier catalog.

A father of five, two of Mtukudzi's children, Selmor and Sam, eventually followed in his footsteps and launched music careers of their own. When Sam Mtukudzi tragically died in a car crash in 2010, his father recorded the moving 2012 album Sarawoga in tribute to his son. In his later years, despite an ongoing battle with diabetes, he remained quite active as a musician, releasing 2016's joyful Eheka! Nhai Yahwe and collaborating with his friend Hugh Masekela on the latter's 2017 No Borders album. On what proved to be his final album, 2018's Hany'ga (Concern), Mtukudzi expressed his worries for the future of Zimbabwe and its people. After his passing on 23 January 2019, his daughter Selmor, being the obvious heir to the Tuku Music Brand, took over the legacy and has been travelling around the world celebrating his life with his fans and making sure that his music lives on. Her latest album “Dehwe Renzou” which was produced by her father’s long time friend and South African producer, Steve Dyer, carries the hit song “Mandidzimbira”, a special dedication to her beloved father.

In 2003, Oliver Mtukudzi founded Pakare Paye Arts Centre providing a performance platform for developing and fostering young talent in many practical artistic endeavours particularly music, dance, drama, poetry and storytelling. Through Pakare Paye, young Zimbabweans have an opportunity to learn benefits and pitfalls of the music industry as they have the opportunity to interact with veterans in the industry. The Centre provides venues that can be used by musicians and communities for different events.


Social commentary[edit]

Prior to the independence of Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi's music depicted the struggles under Rhodesian white minority rule.[8] In subsequent years following Zimbabwean independence, his music has advocated for tolerance and peace and has frequently portrayed the struggles of women and children.[9]


On 23 January 2019, Mtukudzi died at the age of 66 at Avenues Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe after a long battle with diabetes mellitus.[10]


  1. 1978 Ndipeiwo Zano (re-released 2000)
  2. 1979 Chokwadi Chichabuda
  3. 1979 Muroi Ndiani?
  4. 1980 Africa (re-released 2000)
  5. 1981 Shanje
  6. 1981 Pfambi
  7. 1982 Maungira
  8. 1982 Please Ndapota
  9. 1983 Nzara
  10. 1983 Oliver's Greatest Hits
  11. 1984 Hwema Handirase
  12. 1985 Mhaka
  13. 1986 Gona
  14. 1986 Zvauya Sei?
  15. 1987 Wawona
  16. 1988 Nyanga Nyanga
  17. 1988 Strange, Isn't It?'
  18. 1988 Sugar Pie
  19. 1989 Grandpa Story
  20. 1990 Chikonzi
  21. 1990 Pss Pss Hallo!
  22. 1990 Shoko
  23. 1991 Mutorwa
  24. 1992 Rombe
  25. 1992 Rumbidzai Jehova
  26. 1992 Neria Soundtrack'
  27. 1993 Son of Africa
  28. 1994 Ziwere MuKobenhavn
  29. 1995 Was My Child
  30. 1996 Svovi yangu
  31. 1995 The Other Side: Live in Switzerland
  32. 1995 Ivai Navo
  33. 1997 Ndega Zvangu (re-released 2001)
  34. 1997 Chinhamwe
  35. 1998 Dzangu Dziye
  36. 1999 Tuku Music
  37. 2000 Paivepo
  38. 2001 Neria
  39. 2001 Bvuma (Tolerance)
  40. 2002 Shanda soundtrack
  41. 2002 Vhunze Moto
  42. 2003 Shanda (Alula Records)
  43. 2003 Tsivo (Revenge)
  44. 2004 Greatest Hits Tuku Years
  45. 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1991–1997
  46. 2004 Mtukudzi Collection 1984–1991
  47. 2005 Nhava
  48. 2006 Wonai
  49. 2007 Tsimba Itsoka
  50. 2008 Dairai (Believe)
  51. 2010 Rudaviro
  52. 2010 Kutsi Kwemoyo (compilation)[11]
  53. 2011 Rudaviro
  54. 2011 Abi'angu (Duets of My Time)
  55. 2012 Sarawoga — Sarawoga laments the losses that the legend has had to endure in his life, not least the loss of life. Thus he has been left 'alone' in a sense, hence the title Sarawoga (left alone).
  56. 2014 Mukombe Wemvura
  57. 2016 God Bless You - The Gospel Collection
  58. 2016 Eheka! Nhai Yahwe
  59. 2018 hany’a (Concern)

Contributing artist[edit]

  1. 1996 The Rough Guide to the Music of Zimbabwe (World Music Network)
  2. 1999 Unwired: Acoustic Music from Around the World (World Music Network)
  3. 2000 Unwired: Africa (World Music Network)


  • Jit (dir. Michael Raeburn, 1990)
  • Neria (dir. Goodwin Mawuru, written by Tsitsi Dangarembga, 1993). Mtukudzi starred in the movie and made the soundtrack.
  • Shanda (dir. John and Louise Riber, 2002, rev. 2004)[12]
  • Sarawoga, 2009, was written by Elias C. Machemedze, directed by Watson Chidzomba and produced by Oliver Mtukudzi, who also did the soundtrack for the film.
  • 2012 Nzou NeMhuru Mudanga DVD, the live recording of a show, a theatrical performance which Tuku had with his son just weeks before his death.


  • 1985–1988: One of The Best Selling Artists in Zimbabwe.
  • KORA Award for Best Arrangement in 2002, for Ndakuwara.
  • 2002: SAMA Finalist (Best Traditional/African Adult Contemporary DVD) Live at the Cape Town Jazz Festival.
  • National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) in 2002 and 2004 for Best Group / Male vocalist
  • KORA Award for Best African male artist and Lifetime Achievement Award in August 2003.
  • Reel Award Winner for Best African Language in 2003.
  • An honorary degree from the University of Zimbabwe in December 2003[13]
  • NAMA Award 2003: Best Group/Artist.
  • NAMA Award 2004: Best Group/Artist.
  • NAMA Award 2005: National Arts Personality of the Year.
  • NAMA Award 2006: Outstanding Album (NHAVA).
  • 2006: ZIMA (Best Music Ringing Tone Handiro Dambudziko).
  • 2006: ZIMA (Music Ambassador).
  • NAMA Award 2007: Best Musician/Group.
  • 2007:Cultural Ambassador – Zimbabwe Tourism Association.
  • NAMA Award 2008: (Outstanding Musician).
  • Honorary MSc (Fine Arts) Degree awarded by the Women's University in Africa in 2009.
  • M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992, for Neria[14]
  • 2010: MTN SAMA Awards recognised his son's achievements in music.
  • 2010: University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and The International Council of Africana Womanism (ICAW) Award: recognition of his luminary role in uplifting African women through his artistic work – music and a diversity of art forms – offered as community development at his arts academy at Pakare Paye in Norton.
  • 2011: Titled Zimbabwe's first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • 2011: Honoured by the Government of Italy with the prestigious Cavaliere of the Order of Merit Award in recognition of his work as an international musician. (The award is what the Knighthood is to England).
  • 2014 Honorary Doctorate (PHD) International Institute of Philanthropy.
  • 2014 Honorary Doctorate from Great Zimbabwe University (GZU). Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology & Choreography (Honoris Causa).


  1. ^ "Oliver Mtukudzi - Pindula". pindula.co.zw. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  2. ^ Mafundikwa, Ish (January 2012). "The Great Tuku: When It Comes to Music, No One Beats Oliver Mtukudzi in Zimbabwe". New African (513).
  3. ^ "Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits, Zimbabwe Music Guide". Archived from the original on 28 August 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
  4. ^ "Tuku serenades Chivayo's marriage ceremony guests". The Herald. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Zimbabwean music legend Oliver Mtukudzi has died". CNN. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Sam Mtukudzi dies in car crash". Newzimbabwe.com. 15 March 2010. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Oliver Mtukudzi's son dies in car crash". Times LIVE. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Mtukudzi buried in his home village". 27 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Oliver Mtukudzi and his 'talking guitar' was our gift from Zimbabwe to the world". Quartz Africa.
  10. ^ "Music legend Oliver Mtukudzi's guitar strums silenced in diabetes battle". Nairobi News. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Tuku debuts double album on UK tour". New Zimbabwe. 13 July 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  12. ^ Review of Shanda movie at Dandamutande
  13. ^ "Mtukudzi, Ringo expected for UK concerts". New Zimbabwe.com. 11 October 2006. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  14. ^ Oliver Mtukudzi:Biography, Sheer Sound