Well it’s the same thing, like him Oliver. He is two-faced. You understand what I am trying to say? He doesn’t come out in the open and say where he stands. The last time we heard he made a statement that Mugabe won those elections and yet he rigged those elections. He should come out in the open and identify himself with the people. He is not doing that. He is working with this manager of his, Debbie. Debbie is white she wants to live in Zimbabwe and maybe she is the one who is influencing him to be two faced.- Thomas Mapfumo
In 1987, Oliver Mtukudzi was dumped by his band – the Black Spirits – and he came to Kwekwe. I was a temporary teacher then at Mbizo 5 Primary School.
News about Mtukudzi in town spread fast and one day, I saw him in town and the people flocked to see him.
I later heard that his wife Daisy’s parents stay in Kwekwe. I also heard that Mtukudzi was slowly losing it after going through family problems among them many deaths.
Later, he teamed up with the Kwekwe-based band, the Zig Zag Band of Gomo Ramasare fame. For two years, Mtukudzi had the backing of the Zig Zag band. He even lured the group to Harare. But the group later returned to Kwekwe leaving Oliver Mtukudzi without a band.
I had first seen Tuku performing at Rufaro Stadium in January 1986 when the UB40 came to Zimbabwe. Those were the days he was singing YaNhopi - kamutambiriro kamatiita pano, ya-anhopi.
He was a great sensation despite him singing light stuff that included Chimbambaira Chiri Mupoto and various other forgettable songs.
My third meeting with him was in 1996 when I was teaching at Highfield 2 high and editing the Knowtown News, a monthly magazine. He used to hang around with Steve Dhongi Makoni playing solo either at the Terreskane Hotel (now Bira) or at the closed down Tabs Restaurant.
They made a very good pair on stage. I recall very well when one guy jumped onto the stage while Tuku was performing. He got so angry that he shouted at the guy and then started singing about ndakauya kubasa kwenyu ndinoremekedza wani. It’s one of the songs which he later released.
It was around that time when the now defunct Sadc music festival came to town. Somehow and controversially too, Mtukudzi was chosen to represent Zimbabwe.
I recall Clive Malunga and Thomas Mapfumo among many other musicians staging a demonstration against the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Steven Chifunyise demanding transparency in the selection.
I am not sure what happened then but the demonstration did not stop Mtukudzi from performing. It was also at this time when he met Debbie Metcalfe who was to be his manageress and success driver. And the rest, as they say, is history.
And again, with success came controversy. It came in the form of Mendy Chimbindi, who was once one of Andy Brown’s vocalists.
My colleague, Garikai Mazara of the Sunday Mail had a great time writing about the alleged affair between Mendy (who was late then) and Mtukudzi. The stories were plucked off Mendy’s diaries which were allegedly given to Mazara by her former boyfriend.
Mtukudzi did not say anything and up to now he has not yet said anything about the affair. This is one of his greatest and most humbling attributes – to act as if nothing is happening around him.
But I was to meet him face-to-face when he was organising his first national birthday. It was a brief encounter at the agency just opposite Meikles Hotel. By then I had written a number of no-good articles about him. One of the articles was about him turning his back on Highfield, the place that had nurtured him.
Up until now, I am yet to understand why Zim musicians squirmed in my presence.
Read the interview below
With the contruction of Pakare Centre, can we safely say you have arrived?
OM: An artist does not arrive. (Nyanduri ndinyanduri kusvika mukufa) An artist remains an artist until his death. They die on the job. Whatever one did in the past is never enough. Our past achievements do not mean anything today.
Talking about the past, your music has always had the recurring message about death. Why death?
OM:Death is everywhere. It happens everyday. But each song talks about death in a different way. Yes, there could be something about death but sometimes it is not about death.
Take for example, Rufu Ndimadzongonyedze. It is about death but about the confusion that death causes. It talks about the aftermath. How death affects people and disturbs their everyday routine.
And that song where you say something about matora wani?
Yeah, yeah that one is like a prayer. I am asking God what he expects me to do when he takes my dear loved ones. How am I going to live? It is a prayer.
But every song is like a picture. Take it as a picture of a village where a homestead is made up of a small hut here and there. Then there is a hoe and an axe lying on the ground.
At first, these things seem unrelated but they make the homestead what it is. That is the same with a song. People interpret it any way they want after taking a small part of the song.
And when a song attracts different interpretations then it is a good song. I can see that you really like that line matora wani although it is but a small piece in the song. You have your own interpretation too.
Is that why people have this problem of interpreting songs?
It’s not a problem for people to say whatever they want or think about a song although it is a problem for people to make the interpretation basing them on a small part of the song.
But what does death mean to you personally?
Death is a symptom of a problem. Death means different things to different people. When death occurs something must be wrong somewhere.
That reminds of the original Black Spirits who are supposed to join you on stage on Saturday. How many are still alive?
There was Bartholomew Chirenda who died in 1979, Robert Mtukudzi and Kenny Mkwesha who are both deceased. Robert died in 1996 while Mkwesha passed away last year.
Sometime ago I wrote about you having turned your back on Highfield . . .
Oh it was you who wrote that? You missed one point. Do you have daughters? Well, they grow up and get married, and leave home. They do not stay. That is the same thing with me. I am like a daughter who grew up and left home.
I built my home for my children and gave each a room of their own. But they have all left and the rooms are empty now.
In any case, I am now too big for my room in Highfield. If I am to return, the room that accommodated me is now too small.
In what terms?
I now have my children who have their own children. We can’t fit in that room. What I do now is invite my parents to my house where they would play with their grand children.
That is how it must be. A man who sticks around his parents’ home is a lazy man. Real man grow up and move away to start their own families.
But Selma . . .
Yes, it is now Selma’s duty to entertain Highfield. Anyway where would I perform in Highfield?
I grew up in Highfield. I used to scale the stadium fence and watch concerts for free. That is how I first saw Dorothy Masuku playing. We used to do the same during soccer matches. I would not stage a show in Gwanzura under those conditions.
What about Mushandirapamwe Hotel?
I must admit that Mushandirapamwe was the place that reared me. But then we used to change clothes in the toilets with drunkards pushing us out of the way. I remember that George Tawengwa used to allow me to use his office for changing clothes.
I understand that the condition is still the same. Nothing has changed. Tell me then how I can operate under the same conditions.
Artists should value themselves. Operating under such conditions destroys confidence. Zvakangofanana nezvenguva yataidzvanyirirwa tichiitwa. That is why I have come up with the idea of Pakare Paye Centre . . .
I had not finished with him when his then manager Sam Mataure said it was time up.
Oliver Mtukudzi was born in Highfield, Harare in 1952. His career spans more than thirty years. He was born in a musical family with both his father and mother being notable singers.
Even today, one can say music runs in the family where his late son Sam and daughter Selma is all musicians. There was brother Robert and sister Bybit having sang with him.
And at one time Mtukudzi remarked, “I thank God for giving me time to have such a long history. I am humbled and most importantly I have been lucky to be able to share the stage with my children. Most of my peers of my time did not get that chance.”
He entered the music industry in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels. At the time, both Zexie Manatsa and Thomas Mapfumo had recorded songs and were enjoying great fame. Mapfumo remembers (see his story) meeting Mtukudzi in Mbare at Kenneth Chogugudza’s house. Chogugudza, whose nickname was James Band 007, was a music promoter who helped several groups by providing instruments.
In an interview with Mduduzi Mathuthu in 2008, Thomas Mapfumo denied that he was once in the same band with Mtukudzi although on tukumusic website there is such a claim. I have also read reports by several entertainment journalists who still repeat the same error.
Below is an excerpt of the interview by Mathuthu with Mapfumo on Mtukudzi:
“When I met Oliver for the first time, I was already established myself. I was a senior. It was at my uncle, James Bond’s place.
“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 practise 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 a 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.”
Another myth about Mapfumo and Mtukudzi is that they were once members of the same band. Not quite, Mukanya tells me.
“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.” – newzimbabwe.com
Indeed, Mtukudzi had recorded the song under the title Stop After Orange in 1975 at 23 years.
Mtukudzi is most probably one of very few Zimbabwean musicians who hasn’t hopped from one band to the next. He started off with the Wagon Wheels with whom he released the song Dzandimomotera in 1977.
It set what was to become his trade mark mournful songs accompanied by a cough that has since disappeared. The song spoke about the black man’s struggles under the minority white settler regime.
He is also most probably the only musician who made it big even when he came without a rich musical background.
Oliver left Wagon Wheels in 1979 to launch a solo career and form the The Black Spirits which has been described as ‘a group of rag-tag young stylish ghetto boys who were to become a sure force on the music scene, progressing into a household name in the ensuing years’.
“When we left the Wagon Wheels, we thought we would continue using the same name (Wagon Wheels) but the management we had left behind put together another band which they called by the same name. Naturally we thought the continued use of the name would confuse people and we came up with our own name, The Black Spirits.”
In fact, according to Mapfumo, they had used the same name before Mtukudzi came on the music scene.
It must be pointed out that Mtukudzi gained a lot from SA West Nkosi.
As his music made waves in the 1970s his popularity rose. His writing prowess and style of singing attracted big names among African producers among them West Nkosi – a respected South African who came to Zimbabwe in search of music.
Was Oliver’s music to lose its originality after Nkosi’s South African influence? “West Nkosi came to produce me because he was looking for new sound and if he was to influence my music he was going to get the same sound that he was running away from in South Africa. He wanted fresh music so he got me, Zexie Manatsa, Susan Mapfumo . . . all of us. (See Zexie Manatsa’s story.)
There was talk that Mtukudzi’s music borrowed from South Africa. “I don’t think the influence of South Africa was there. It’s just that I introduced the keyboard in my music. And South Africans then were using the keyboard a lot in their music. So when I introduced the keyboard people said West Nkosi was influencing me.
“One thing about our music and South African music is that the music is the same, really. If it weren’t for a handful of people who created these geographical boundaries we would be the same people in many respects.”
Then he would sing about the war in his typical way – using idioms.
I remember when Ndiri Bofu was released in 1978. I was staying with my uncle in Guruve and we had gone to the grinding mill close to a shop where there used to be a speaker outside. While we sat there munching dry bread, this song just jammed. Mtukudzi’s voice just washed us over.
Coicedentally, Zipra guerrillas had killed a man alleged to have been a sellout the previous night in one of the villages nearby. The news of the death was still fresh and we spoke about it in hushed tones.
Of course, that same week the headmaster, Mr Gombarago of the local primary school – Ruvinga - was beheaded and his head thrown on top of the hedge. He had also been wrongly sold out as a double agent.
Today, whenever I listen to the song, I shudder. It brings me memories of my Guruve years. There were other various songs too.
Hesays about the songs: “Before independence it was the fight against the Rhodesian regime. My music then spoke against oppression and the repressive regime and how we were suffering at the hands of the regime.
“I left school and for three years I couldn’t find a job yet I was one of the few guys among my peers with a fine secondary education. But I couldn’t get a job because I was black. My music then helped people identify themselves . . . who we were and what we wanted to be.
“I wasn’t afraid of anyone. The beauty of the Shona language (the majority vernacular language in Zimbabwe) is that it is endowed with all those rich idioms and metaphor . . . and the beauty of art is that you can use the power of language to craft particular meaning without necessarily giving it away. So, I used the beauty of Shona to communicate in my own way and people got the message.
“At independence I did praise songs just like most of the artists during that era because it was justifiably celebration time. I did songs like Zimbabwe that was celebratory music . . . songs like Gore reMasimba eVanhu (Year of the People’s Power).
“I was celebrating the demise of the regime and the advent of black majority rule. But over and above celebrating I was also singing about self-discipline and restraint in that new era be it at social or political level.”
Today some people refer to his music as katekwe but the name Tuku Music has stuck with him.
“I was the last person to know that my music is called Tuku Music. I knew my music was simply African music but it was actually my fans who labeled it as such. And in my research with the fans they said my music was uniquely influenced by the mbira, there is jiti, there is tsavatsava, katekwe, there is dinhe…it might be a ballad but you can feel those elements. So they labeled it uniquely Tuku Music.
“Since I started playing music I have always been influenced by traditional instruments unlike today’s youngsters who feel inferior associating with our own traditional instruments. So I said I should inspire the youngsters and show them the beauty of our traditional instruments and how the instruments can play any other kind of music. This change will inspire the younger generation of artists and make them proud of our traditional instruments. After all, the world out there is looking for more of our authentic traditional Zimbabwean music. Let’s give them the music.
“People were surprised I could play the same music with traditional instruments just as good as I did with electrical instruments and how the music still sounded the same and very fresh. But initially fans were a bit skeptical about the development…yet the change was simply facial on stage in terms of the composition of instruments but the music was basically still the same,” he explains.
But what has made Mtukudzi more controversial is his stand on politics. He has not been so blunt and clear like Simon Chimbetu or Mapfumo. It was for this reason that Mapfumo called him ‘two-faced’.
But is Mtukudzi ‘two-faced’?
I have read severally and I include the interviews below which show that saying Mtukudzi is ‘two-faced’ is being two-faced on the part of those who say so. In an interview with Afropop (see the interview below) in 2000 shortly after the referendum, he speaks his mind without pointing fingers or using hate speech like Mapfumo.
He says: My personal feeling is that from the time of the referendum and the parliamentary elections, it's a step towards positive change. I think everybody knows now what the nation feels. It's not just a matter of being dictated to. People showed what they feel about the whole situation. People are tired of the same thing. They want a change, something different from the last 20 years.
In an interview with Mai Palmberg in the book Sound of Change – Social and Political Features of Music in Africa (2004) published by Sida, Mtukudzi says:
“I still don’t understand why our Government has chosen to sacrifice so much to retain the reins of power. The lack of tolerance toward dissenting voices is a great disappointment to me.
“Party politics will be the ruin of Africa especially when there are so many serious issues facing the country right now, like famine and Aids. Why we can’t just combine all our energies to deal with these real-life issues is a mystery to me. Dialogue and instilling a discipline of non-violence are the only ways to remain victorious over the many challenges that are currently facing us as a nation.
That is a message I would like to convey to all those who are perpetrating senseless acts of violence on fellow Zimbabweans, as they can never wash the blood off their hands.”
He further castigates the wars fought by Afrrican leaders on their own people, “Zimbabweans and the people of Africa are facing a new war against their very own lives. The new war is called hopelessness and it is fueled by fear. There is fear of the unknown. Fear of other people. Fear of losing. Fear of someone else being better. Fear of ourselves becoming worse. So, we fight and see enemies when we should be seeing friends. There is violence to replace our voice. That should not be. We don’t have time, we must act now, life is at stake.
“Africa has fought so hard for our freedom, now must we fight ourselves in the streets and in the villages and create new wars?”
Read the interesting interview below:
Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo
Two of Zimbabwe's leading musicians were paying tribute to a fallen legend, Simon Chimbetu, who died on Sunday this week. While Oliver Mtukudzi refused to discuss politics, Thomas Mapfumo's was unrestrained in this interview with SW Radio Africa's Violet Gonda. We reproduce the full transcript.
Violet: Thank you very much Mukoma Oliver Mtukudzi for agreeing to do this interview with us. First of all we hear that the chart topping Sungura Musician Simon Chopper Chimbetu from a reported short illness and as a colleague, and I know he was your friend, first of what are your thoughts on this sad news.
Oliver Mtukudzi: Well I am still in shock because I didn’t even know he wasn’t feeling well or how it came to be it is so surprisingly shocking.
Violet: What do you remember most about Simon Chimbetu?
Oliver Mtukudzi: He is a musician
Violet: Yes, he was extremely popular for his music with many people saying that he provided a lot of slang for Zimbabwe culture like his song, Dzandipedza Mafuta which became slang for jealousy, what can you say about this?
Oliver Mtukudzi: Well, he was a profound artist and he was being very artistic and if people could adapt on his sayings then he was good.
Violet: Now as people say his music was good and popular there are others who say they were disappointed by his support for an oppressive government, what are your thoughts on this?
Oliver Mtukudzi: Well that is his own opinion; I look at him as a musician that’s all I know of him. His beliefs were something else, I had nothing to do with that.
Violet: Right, but do you think as an artist, musicians should have an obligation of reflecting the reality of the situation on the ground?
Oliver Mtukudzi: Musicians are human beings. They have their own beliefs. They have a right to believe in whatever they believe in. As for me with him, we were friends from a long time ago, from late 70s.
Violet: The death of the Sungura musician Simon Chimbetu has been described as a great loss by many. He was a great entertainer and very popular as his songs tended to focus on the working class and the poor. Zimbabwe has become a polarized society and the current political and economic climate has impacted heavily on both the music industry and musicians themselves.The destruction of the informal sector, for example, has affected around 70% of record sales. Musicians have often been called upon by the politicians to help promote government policies not least of which has been the land issue.To discuss the challenges affecting Zimbabwean musicians, I caught up with Zimbabwe’s most historically significant musician Thomas Mapfumo currently in self imposed exile in the US. I first asked him, why musicians, in general sing about the suffering of their fans but rarely talk about the causes of their suffering.
Thomas Mapfumo: Well, some are really afraid of coming out in the open and saying the truth because they are afraid to be victimised. This is what happens. They want to say it out. You know the reason because Zimbabwe is not a free country. It’s not a democratic country. You are always being observed, what you are doing, what you are singing about. You know the music that goes against the government; they don’t play that on the radio. So some musicians are very much afraid to speak the truth.
Violet: Do you think as an artist, musicians have the responsibility of reflecting the reality of the situation on the ground despite the victimisation?
Mapfumo: Ya, I mean it is the duty of every musician to do that, you know, when a country is like Zimbabwe. The problem that people are facing you cannot just keep quiet because we are all citizens of that country. Some people say that you are a musician you don’t have to involve yourself with politics. Who am I? Where am I supposed to come from? I am coming from Zimbabwe. You think musicians don’t have feelings? He is a human being. So I feel the same whether being a musician or not but I feel for my country. I want my people to be free and I am also a citizen of that country. I am supposed to be seen doing something about what is happening today. I cannot just sit there and just keep quiet. That is not the way.
Violet: And there are a lot of fence sitting musicians who do benefit from both sides. You know they make money in the Diaspora and at home they have their music played on ZBC. Are we wrong to judge them harshly for this?
Mapfumo: Ya, there are a lot of two-faced musicians but we don’t want to talk about them. Some pretend that they don’t support the government but during the night they support the government. Those are the two-faced musicians that we don’t want to talk about but we know them we know who they are. We don’t want to mention their names but that’s wrong because you are pretending that you are with the people and at the same time you are not with the people. You are just in there to make money for yourself. If you are a freedom fighter you have to fight for freedom show the people that you are with the people and always stand by the people.
Violet: Do you think musicians, in general, choose to support the government for their own security so as not to get victimised?
Mapfumo: That’s very true and some people went in there for money. We have a lot of friends, I have a lot of friends, like Andy Brown, I have other musicians. We know them I don’t want to mention names. Andy is a good friend of mine I talk to him, we talk about music. But such musicians, they cannot make it on the music market and they are trying to make big amounts of money and they are told by these people from the government that if you do this for us, will pay you so much money. They want the money. They don’t support the government but they want the money… but they will be actually damaging their reputation because people out there will know about it and know exactly what you stand for.
Violet: You have suffered after openly criticising the regime as your music is directed to the social and political situation in the country. Now has the banning of your music on the state broadcaster affected your music sales?
Mapfumo: Somehow it has affected my record sale like people who live in the rural areas are not able to listen to my music and they have no way of coming out to buy my music because you find my music in Harare. Maybe in a few shops in Bulawayo and other small cities but people who are living in the rural areas don’t have access to my music and right now they have cleared off the flea markets where there was a lot of our music, where those people were buying a lot of our music. And today the sales records are at a standstill. They are trying to destroy the music industry.
Violet: Now how do you balance performing without fear even though your music has been banned you still continue?
Mapfumo: If you are a freedom fighter you have to show the people that you are a freedom fighter. You are fighting with the people you stand with the poor people; you don’t have to fear no-one. And this is all in music. I didn’t commit any crime I am only telling the people the truth about what is happening to their lives and what is happening to their country. And this is no sin at all and somebody call people like us sell-outs, because I am not a member of Zanu PF. If I am a sell-out what have you done yourself to improve the situation of the country? There are no investments; the economy of the country is down. There is nothing that people can talk about. Our money is just nothing today and yet people go on to say that those people who criticize the government are sell-outs. Who is a sell-out? You are destroying the country you must be the sell-out!
Violet: And you were actually quoted in a BBC interview at the live 8 concert at Eden Project saying that a coup is the only way of solving the crisis in Zimbabwe what is your justification for saying this?
Mapfumo: Well, well, well, when people have had enough and people are saying enough is enough. They tried to go for elections and those elections are being rigged in the name of Zanu PF. Zanu PF does not want to be associated with election monitors from other good countries like America, England, German and France. They are trying to keep power to themselves and yet there are people out there who have young ideas for the country...they are being denied the access to do so because of Zanu PF. They think they were in Maputo they fought for the struggle. EVERYONE fought in the struggle. Every one of us suffered during this struggle and no one can ever claim that they were the victors of this war. We all came out the victors.
Violet: But do you still believe that a coup would be the only way of solving the crisis in the country?
Mapfumo: Ye, well if the people have had enough and there is no other way to free themselves what do you think people should do? They cannot wait any longer. They cannot go on and on forever living in this state. Like we are talking today of Simon Chimbetu who is dead. Why is he dead? Because that country doesn’t have medication for our people. If you fall sick you can just die from any disease that could be cured. But just because there are no doctors, there is no medication; people are just dying like flies today. Who should we point our fingers to? To the State. They are killing the people by the way they are running the country.
Violet: You talked about Simon Chimbetu who died on Sunday after a short illness, I was talking to Oliver Mtukudzi about this popular musician, and no disrespect to the memory of Chopper Chimbetu – his fans tell me his music was great and popular and I know he was your friend and colleague - but there are others who felt disappointed by his support for an oppressive regime. Now my question is the same question that I asked Oliver Mtukudzi that, is it not ironic that most musicians are making money from singing about social and economic problems faced by their fans but they never want to sing songs addressing the causes of these problems? What can you say about this?
Mapfumo: Well it’s the same thing, like him Oliver. He is two-faced. You understand what I am trying to say? He doesn’t come out in the open and say where he stands. The last time we heard he made a statement that Mugabe won those elections and yet he rigged those elections. He should come out in the open and identify himself with the people. He is not doing that. He is working with this manager of his, Debbie. Debbie is white she wants to live in Zimbabwe and maybe she is the one who is influencing him to be two faced. That is not good. If you are a freedom fighter you stand for what you stand for. You are not afraid whether to die today or tomorrow. Everybody dies, if it’s not your day you won’t die. It’s the same thing that even goes with the president. He is very old. We can hear that tomorrow or next week he is dead. It doesn’t surprise us.
Violet: … you see yourself as a freedom fighter as a musician Now is that the role that you see musicians as artist in a repressive community?
Mapfumo: I don’t want to influence anybody. I am a musician and a Zimbabwean citizen. I am one guy who doesn’t want to see people denied their freedom. And if you don’t see that as a musician, well that is your own lookout. If you don’t want to sing about it well you can go on and sing about love. If what is happening in Zimbabwe is a good thing you can go on and do that. But I don’t see how good it is as there are a lot of bad things happening in Zimbabwe and people should be able to point at that. Not only musicians but every one of us. But if you think you cannot do it because you are afraid you could get killed in the game – well leave it and do whatever you think is right for you. But please do not be two-faced. Some people pretend to support the government and at the same time pretend to be with the people. That is not very good. Show us where you are what you stand for.
Violet: … Every year you usually go to Zimbabwe to perform at the Boka Tobacco Floors, do you see yourself being able to go back after making these controversial headlines?
Mapfumo: I didn’t go back this past Christmas because I heard rumours from friends that people were conspiring about my life…I didn’t go because I feared for my life . . . but I will be there because that is where I belong that’s my home.
If ever Mtukudzi had raised so much controversy over where he stands politically, it was when he performed at Vice President Joyce Mujuru’s celebration gig in Harare for being appointed VP in 2005.
Oliver Mtukudzi sings for Zanu PF
By Showbiz Reporter
Zimbabwean music icon Oliver Mtukudzi shocked his legion of fans when out of character he performed at a Zanu PF-initiated, Vice President Joyce Mujuru's bash last week.
The ceremony was held at Harare's City Sports Centre and was attended by Zanu PF dignitaries and sympathisers who were celebrating Mujuru's appointment as Vice President.
Many of his fans have watched and listened in shock as one of his most popular songs, Totutuma is used to back a Zanu PF election advert screened on television.
The show itself did not even go down well with Mtukudzi's manager, Debbie Metcalfe, who saw the singer's participation as business suicide.
Fumed Metcalfe: "I was not part of the organisation of that function. I am actually unhappy about it because it was without my consent. The issue of one of his songs being used for a political advert is actually news to me.
"Tuku's material can be used after we grant an agreement licence and I was never approached by either Zanu PF or ZBC. We are going to follow up on that one," she said before referring further questions to Mtukudzi.
Mtukudzi however denied that he was aligned to any political party.
"This was a show I did purely on the grounds that Amai Mujuru is my relative by virtue of us coming from Dande.
"I was celebrating the rise of a daughter from our clan. It had nothing to do with politics. I have relatives everywhere, in MDC and even in Zanu PF."
He said as a manager Debbie had a reason to be angry because she was looking at things from a business perspective.
"I am not partisan despite what people might think. My music is there to unite. People have to be united and be happy. My music is achieving that and evidence is there for all to see. I am not a political musician and it shall remain so."
Mtukudzi scoffed at suggestions that he performed for monetary gains.
"To show that this (performance) was not money oriented, I was not even backed by my group because I would have failed to pay them as there was nothing I got from this," said Mtukudzi.
Debra Musana of Glenview said it was disheartening to see a man who for years has ostensibly resisted alignment to any political party now taking this route.
"I am afraid this has dampened the spirits of most of us Tuku fans. This is a man who has always stood by principle and refused to be swallowed by these politicians who have killed the future and talent of many musicians."
Lovemore Jera of Norton said: "If indeed this is an endorsement of the hate speech that the Makwavararas of this world were preaching at that function, then I must say we have lost a true African symbol of non-partisan music."
Lately, formerly idolised musicians like Simon Chimbetu, Plaxedes Wenyika, Andy Brown, Tambaoga, Sister Flame, Brian Mteki and a host of others saw their sales plummeting because of their association with Zanu PF.
Most people saw them as endorsing a government that was abusing power and basic human rights and boycotted their shows and albums.
On the other hand sungura star, Leonard Zhakata and militant chimurenga singer, Thomas Mapfumo experienced a major decline in the airplay of their music on the state controlled radio stations because their music was deemed politically incorrect – newzimbabwe.com
The bungling lunatic from Dande
By Shepherd Sibanda
Ever imagined how the world would have reacted if legendary South African jazz singer Hugh Masekela had provided entertainment at an apartheid rally?
Unimaginable, I would think!
But Oliver Mtukudzi has just done the equivalent, defying his manager to entertain Robert Mugabe's shock troops at a campaign rally cloaked as a "congratulations bash" for Joyce Mujuru's appointment as Vice President.
His attempt to justify his presence at the rally, and his performance, as a "celebration of the rise of a daughter from our clan" is simply, PATHETIC!
Dictators and thugs the world over are sons and daughters of certain clans Mr Mtukudzi.
The choice is simple: do you align yourself with those murderers and rapists or you do the right thing?
Sadly, Mtukudzi has gone for the former. He has chosen hate politics, and he should be now judged with those buffoons Sekesai Makwavarara and his heroine Joyce Mujuru.
The timing of his flirtation with Zanu PF is also quite extra-ordinary, given that later this week he is in the UK hoping to attract thousands of Zimbabweans driven into exile by Mugabe and Mujuru's policies.
He is picking up a fat cheque of over £9 000 for three shows in the UK, all paid in advance by promoters who now have to mop-up after a bungling lunatic from Dande.
Now this is fraud!
Oliver Mtukudzi knows too well that he was always a fringe musician since he started singing in the 1970s until he put his hand on the pulse of the nation with his hit album Bvuma just a few years ago. Suddenly he was winning awards. Suddenly, he was being invited all across the globe.
I hear someone shouting Mtukudzi is an entertainer and can entertain anyone!
Oh yes, if he can entertain anyone, let him continue with his Zanu PF project. The good thing is that there is no shortage of case studies. Remember Simon Chimbetu?
For all we care, Mtukudzi can now freely join Elliot Manyika on the campaign trail. Good luck to them!
We hope Mujuru, Grace, Chatunga and Robert Mugabe will visit their nearest record bar to buy Nhava!
Below are some reactions from Mtukudzi’s fans
Editor - Oliver Mtukudzi has right to freedom of expression. It is people like you Shapiro who shame our hard won freedom by impeding on other people's right to express themselves, yet cry at the same time that there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe.
I remember writing a story in which Tuku once ostracised MDC on their land policy and he told them that for the sake of unity in Zimbabwe, they would rather negotiate with Zanu PF. I blasted him then, but then as maturity caught up with me, I realised, Tuku or any other musician had a right to be aligned to anyone he so wishes.
NewZimbabwe Arts Editor should leave him alone for through journalistic integrity, Shapiro should know that a sizeable population in Zimbabwe supports Mugabe and Zanu PF and it is no crime they are committing - it is all their right to expression - the very fundamental right journalists like Shapiro have long been crying for, especilly under Jonathan Moyo's draconian laws.
Now, becoz some people have the means to write, they want to control how other people express themselves? It is not for the media to tell any Zimbabwean who to support or who not to support - the media can only respect a person's wish to support and not practice gutter journalism, writing gutter pieces like the one by Newzimbabwe.
The word journalism should be ashamed by you guys. Contrary to your claims, Zimbabwe is not even ashamed or outraged - it is the media that is through pre-determined pieces like the one that appeared in the Standard Newspaper - I can almost hear the journalist asking, "Tuku performed at the Mujuru bash, you are angry with him, aren't you?" Of-course, we journalists have long written voice pox pieces in which we phone our friends and ask them obvious questions or answer our own questions and put names to the answers to justify or legitimise the story - yes we do that and I can see this written all over Tuku's story. Shame on you!!
Editor - DEMOCRACY--in my own simple defination is the right to choose without someone putting a gun on your neck. If you do not like Zanu PF then do not force those who like it if you believe in democracy. I do notlike Znu PF myself but I do not have a problem with people who like it because I am an open minded person who believe that people should be free to choose. So do not have a problem with Tuku's chice.
You guys you always critise everything, way don't you go ahead and do something yourselves and we see how far you can go? Right now you are hiding in UK and waiting for other people to die for you then you can go back and probably start critising again.
I like your news and I ready it everyday, thanks for always be the first people to inform us of what is going on back home, but stop your unnecessary and uneducated comments.
Editor - I will start by quoting you "He has chosen hate politics, and he should be now judged with those buffoons Sekesai Makwavarara and his heroine Joyce Mujuru.
"If you carefully follow what you wrote, there is no hate literature as you posted on the web condemming a very good man because he has mingled with people from a political party you don't like.
Oliver Mtukidzi holds his shows in Zimbabwe always in front of ZANU PF, MDC, ZANU etc supporters who are all his fans, and no-one is asked for a party card at the gate. Zimbabweans whether they are ZANU PF, MDC, ZANU go to work everyday to sustain an economy run by ZANU PF, and no-one condems them.
Who the hell are you anyway to go into the ballot box on behalf of Oliver Mtukudzi?
Editor - Siyanai nava Mtukudzi, he is expressing his fundamental right of choice.I feel we should have singers who belong to either ZANU PF or MDC. In mature democracies there is nothing sinister. If a singer becomes bad because he is on the side of the rulling party, when the opposition takes over is it going to allow opposing views? I really dont think so. These are signs that only MDC supporters will be catered for in such a setup because anyone on the other side is betraying.To me this line of thinking explains one thing; the intolerance we see in ZANU PFis not a aparty attitude but a Zimbabwean one. ZANU PF or MDC we are just not tolerant enough to accept the other person's choice as long as it is not the same as yours.While we think we are expressing democratic ideals those who know easily tell a Zimbabwean by this democratic immaturity in almost all Zimbabweans. Let’s respect Samanyanga's choice even if it’s not the same as ours. Pamberi na Samanyanga, pamberi na Mai Mujuru, Pamberi na Shapiro Pambermberi ne Zimbabwe! !
Fanuel Nhamo Musarira
Editor - I read hatred from your lips and i feel you are taking it too far, correct me if wrong i hate not ZANU PF but the corrupt practises and the in human behaviour shown by most of the ruling party's so called powerful three.
Get me right Tuku is good and he is an entertainer just as you have said he is no coward for he's done it in the past by openely demonising the Zanu PF cock by telling them to accept. I know he has done nothing wrong by singing at the ZANU party as long as he keep telling them to accept the truth. My brother attended the bash and he says he did all that was good. We need to fight from within instead of from without.
I am not a sympathiser, Tuku is just right.
Editor - I have been shocked to gather through your article that Tuku performed at a Zanu PF function, and that he has been unwittingly trying to justify it by suggesting that he is related to Mai Mujuru, and thus was celebrating with a daughter from Dande. I think this is indeed one of the greatest betrayals in the history of struggle in Zimbabwe. Tuku must know on which side his bread is buttered. I am now 34 years and have been Tuku's fan since when I was 6 when my father took me to one of his shows, from then on I fell in love with his music and all it stood for, that is freedom, womens rights etc. To hear then that he has alligned himself to and is related to one of the most brutal rogue regimes in the world is sickening. Does Tuku know that when he plays to Zimbabweans around the world does he ever think why they left home? Does he know that we all left our beloved country to run away from the tyranny and ruin that has been perpetrated on our country by his ‘relatives’? I was planning to attend one of his shows in the UK, and after this i wont. Rather with a couple of my friends we are planning to hand back to him all of his CDs and cassettes that we have, to show him how disgusted we are to hear that he has alligned himself with Zanu PF. I also urge all Zimbabweans who are willing to hand back back their CDs to do so when he performs in the UK.
Remember this is not the first time, a year or two ago it was reported that Tuku had made statememts supporting Zanu Pf's land grab exersice. He got away with it, but this time we must not let him off the hook.
Editor - I just want to add my voice to followers of Tuku for what amounts to a "great betrayal" of the people by Oliver Mtukudzi for blatantly aligning himself with partisan politics. Mtukudzi has not only betrayed and disappointed followers of his music but he has spoilt what he has worked so hard for over the last decades. Posterity will judge him harshly for making this ill-fated decision to associate himself with ZANU PF politics of hate and plunder. Because ZANU PF has hurt all of us, his association with ZANU PF is hurting because music is not only a form of entertainment for Zimbabweans, but it is intended to impart lifelong lessons and those associated with the music become role-models of society. We all look up to people like Mtukudzi for wise counsel and his association with Mujuru and others is a testimony of the fact that he "sups with the enemy" in the
Additionally, it is indeed disastrous that when Zimbabweans go to elections in a fortnight, well respected figures in society like Tuku seem to be unaware of the dangers of this "unholy alliance". The unholly alliance will surely be counter-productive because Tuku should know better about the current politics in Zimbabwe and his role should be to educate Zimbabweans through his music and his behavior. It is this betrayal that keeps ZANU PF going, it is this betrayal that has abetted tyranny in our motherland, it is this betrayal that legitimises the killing, murder and torture of our people; remember how the young turks were lured by their insatiate appetite for wealth to join ZANU PF and how they worked against progressive forces to save a "sinking ZANU PF ship". Moyo has testified already that he saved a "sinking ZANU PF ship" Mtukudzi has disappointed the whole lot of us because of this miscalcaulation. History and posterity will surely judge him harshly and remember in world history some world leaders disappeared into oblivion because of such monumental mistakes. This could mark a major turning point in Tuku's otherwise impressive and consistent career.
Editor - I love Tuku and that’s for real. I am a Zimbabwean driven out to search for a better life in the US by Mujuru and Mugabe's policies and find it shocking to hear what my icon is turning into. It makes sad reading to see the great man come down in such an unwise and least strategic way. I live in Boston and most Africans here know Zimbabwe through Tuku and what a shame it will be for them to learn of this act of betrayal. I feel Tuku needs to come out clean or else he keeps his "nhava" (latest song) and we keep our ears and preciuos dollars in the diaspora. I am yet to get e-mails from home but i am sure it will be dozens of them not with the usual glory they have about Tuku and Macheso, but the anger of this turn around which untimely.
Just a few days age we were chating with fellow Zimbostonians about propsects of having the former legendary Tuku in our new "home" and enjoy Zimbabwe through his music but i can assure you its not now, any sooner or for the forseeable future if the news coming from Zim is true. If Tuku does not come clean then he has to sing for the galas, i am sure they will be many of them after our poor grandmothers vote and their votes are never counted if they are the other way and there will be victory celebrations from what Tobaiwa and ... who is going to take over from Obriel's role in 2002. Keeping us awake for the whole night and selling us a dummy count. Then there will be bashes and of course silver jubilee in April.
AS I write, I still feel its not Tuku, wait a minute, till Tuku mbune comes out clean on this one. I like you Tuku but i cannot imagine your precious voice being used to do a nhora vakomana or taveneminda? Definitely not!
I hope this message gets to you and wish to read your response. For now i keep my CDs, i was actually looking at buying Nhava but till you come out clean you might as well keep it and i keep my dollars and buy PDiddy or Chamhembe even 2 CDs of the same and conduct a small auction of all my collection.
I still have lots of respect for Tuku (the smart guy i left in Zim a year ago, kwete weZanu watikunzwa mumapepa.) The nation is bleeding from a terrible regime's will nilly destruction and you are too cool to pick thier dirty for your career.
Ron in Boston
Editor - I just can't come to terms with the fact that Oliver is doing this.
I could not help myself so much that, stupid as it may sound, I have thrown away anything that is Oliver Mutukudzi - I had a collection of ten of his works. This has made me feel better.
As for the coming shows in London, we normally have a convoy of six cars racing to where ever Tuku is - at times to all his shows. I have attended every other show and now I am feeling very betrayed, betrayed indeed!
Finally it all seems like it is Pass-over weekend and it is betrayal time as it is this weekend that we will see Judas Iscariot betray the Son of Man. Concidentally it is this week that we hear of one of our brothers we had thought is championing the struggle of those displaced and downtrodden betray them.
Mhaha waka Mhiha
Tuku has just soiled himself
By Oscar Nkala
GROWING up as the son of a noble peasant farmer in Jahunda taught me enough about tradition to know that individuals remain respectable ladies and gentleman until they act in a disreputable manner, which is essentially the undoing of reputations.
People do this for various reasons, Joseph Chinotimba didn’t mind being notorious as long as it got him many farms, wives, Cherokees, a fully paid “working leave” from Harare City Council and a chance to tell the country that he fought and died for Zimbabwe during the second Chimurenga revolution.
Plenty of learned others please the Old Man of Zimbabwe State House just to keep their pot-bellies growing, but sideways because the front is already too stuffed. Some thieves in cabinet are there just to enjoy diplomatic immunity from arrest, for who doesn't have a cupboard full of skeletons in ZANU PF?
But I honestly cannot see where this Oliver Mtukudzi fellow thinks he can fit in the already bloated cabinet in Harare. Poor sods like me have only realized how mighty musicians can stoop so low as to fib in song, that some people can indeed change colours and screw their eyes to odd angles much faster and better than the average Sub-Saharan fly-eating chameleon.
Over the past few days I have been having long trial session with the latest entry into the Zimbabwe Faded Musicians Association (ZFMA).
1. Are you the same Oliver Mtukudzi who, not so many years ago, was bold enough to tell the Old Man of State House that he was too old (‘usegugile/asakara’) to be a resident of that fort?
2. Is it you, dear Tuku, whom I am told now sleeps with, and sings ZANU PF?
And are you truly so carried away that you find it proper to use your golden voice and the very songs that earned you respect and reputation worldwide to promote a campaign of hunger, rape, tyranny, demo-crush and murder?
(No answers as yet, because the accused insists on his right not to speak in the absence of his lawyer and he has been sent for. The lawyer says he would have been here on Monday had it not been for the fuel crisis entering its third week in Bulawayo.)
While every one is wailing for freedom, wishing the monster to go away, Oliver seems to have used his wisdom and reputation to wail for the monster to stay. Poor Oliver, can’t he see there are already too many pitiful praise singers in ZANU PF: Elliot Manyika, Andy Brown, Jonathan Moyo, Tambaoga and this easily forgettable, religious silly fool who sang something like ‘Mwari Komborera President Mugabe?’
It is sad, but Tuku cannot avoid facing the fact that through his belated entry into the derailed Gravy Train, he has abused the respect and trust of the people. He has robbed himself of his prestigious, well deserved position in the country’s music industry. He has unwillingly turned his back on the people just to appease hazardously narrow, old-man, “mwana-wa-Ningi” agendas that will not live beyond the election.
I thought Oliver was a man of great integrity and good social standing. Not that I expected him to sing praise songs for Morgan Tsvangirai or Paul Siwela, Wilson Kumbula, Shakespeare Maya or my paltry self. I thought he was man enough to know right from wrong, and to know that associating with despised crowds has become a quick, violent way of ending one’s musical career in Zimbabwe.
We have been watching the rise of Tuku and celebrated his position among Zimbabwe’s ambassadors of music.
But now I believe the words of Matshake, my long gone grandfather who told me this:
“The higher the monkey climbs a tree, the more he exposes his bottom.”
He could have been more relevant to Zimbabwean musicians had he been specific enough to say “the wrong tree.”
The same applies for musicians who sing for Bob and the Murderous Wailers.
But for our icon to sing in support of ZANU PF tyranny, with or without relatives in that tyrannical party, lends credence to Grapevine tales suggesting that Tuku suddenly has a brilliant but grotesquely misplaced ambition to take up the post of Minister of Music, Sport, Culture and Patriotism in the post-election cabinet. It appears he has suddenly realized that he is perhaps the only one with such high-up relatives in ZANU PF who hasn’t been rewarded with a high ranking public service post or at least the governorship of Dande. And duly decided to have a go at it, using what he knows best.
We sympathize with him in that he cannot avoid having relatives in ZANU PF. It’s common all over Zimbabwe; even my own brother is a horrid ZANU PF councilor, actively engaged in enforcing the food-votes campaign all over Matabeleland South.
So just like me, Tuku does not need to be sorry to have relatives in ZANU PF just as ex-Rhodesian mounted policeman Philip Chiyangwa felt so much at home in ZANU PF until they decided he was onto his old tricks, betraying the revolution and its secrets to white apartheid spy-masters in Pretoria, Langley, Tel Aviv and London.
We all have nasty relatives in the nasty ZANU PF. But is Tuku, with all honesty, trying to tell us that he has never known, since 1980 and until 2004, that Joyce Teurai Ropa Mujuru, whose only qualification to cabinet was a stray bullet she claimed to have fired which accidentally brought down a Rhodesian Air-force copter, is his relative?
Having relatives in ZANU PF does not compel any musician, including Tuku, to perform at unpopular parties meant to endorse the oppression of human rights, celebrating an internal party coup as a triumph for gender balance and empowerment. Seeing as Joyce is his relative, Tuku probably knows more than we all do that Joyce’s appointment was never a triumph for gender balance in the dirty, stinking and snarling-skeleton stuffed corridors of ZANU PF hegemony. With or without musicians who think they can abuse their popularity to prop up Zezuru tyranny and hegemony in Zimbabwe, the people still view the appointment of the unintelligent Joyce as one maneuver in the vicious succession coup. For that is all it was, the confirmation that all that is not Zezuru is not presidium material.
Mtukudzi has defended himself in all this. First on why he performed at Mujuru’s party.
Mtukudzi: 'I am not a Zanu PF supporter'
Many of you were outraged that Oliver Mtukudzi performed at a Zanu PF rally. This is HIS response after New Zimbabwe.com readers fired a volley of protests. Clearly, he has been listening
By Oliver Mtukudzi
Following recent press reports, I wish to place on record and make absolutely clear that I am not a ZANU (PF) supporter. I am a loyal Zimbabwean who believes in a true and tolerant democracy.
As a musician, I have been appalled that the Government has used its monopoly of the airwaves to restrict airplay of artists who they see as unsupportive of its policies.
People who do not promote government’s image are often seen as being enemies of the government and attempts are made to silence them or undermine their careers.
This is a gross abuse of human rights, so many of which have been violated in order to secure government’s grasp on power. Most distressing is that the government has denied numerous Zimbabweans in the Diaspora their democratic right to vote.
Zimbabwe is a deeply divided society. The political divide often cuts across family loyalties and ties, placing individuals in an impossibly difficult position. Family and political loyalties may conflict and create underlying personal tension, which in my case, has been exploited to try to portray my political morality as being other than it is.
Various subterfuges have been used. A request to sing a few solo songs at what I understood would be a private gathering of relatives was turned into a ZANU (PF) event and, without warning or permission, filmed and broadcast. It is like an American Democratic Party supporter is asked to sing happy birthday to his Republican brother and suddenly finding the event being used in a Republican Party campaign ad.
Furthermore, I understand that one of my songs ‘Totutuma’ has just been used, again without my permission, to promote a ZANU (PF) event in a manner that suggested I would be performing at the event or that the event had my support. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe that this is a deliberate strategy to undermine my popularity as a singer, and to prevent my songs from being used as a rallying point for those who believe in a true and tolerant democracy. However, I hope that my fans are, by now, wise to such cynical manipulation, which so seriously undermines our collective belief in a better Zimbabwe.
In return for my fans’ loyalty, the band and I hope to put on unforgettable shows in our impending UK tour.
Zimbabwe: a nation subsumed in politics
By Innocent Chofamba Sithole
Oliver Mtukudzi’s response to the outcry in the media by some of his fans makes sense when viewed in a business context.
The Standard merely pulled the trigger, and New Zimbabwe.com proved to be the volley of bullets that so riddled Tuku's prospects of mounting a long-term international career that he had to break his peace and appease the aggrieved lot with his plaintive article published on this website.
He acted as any rational man would. This rationality rests on the fact that the majority of those who buy his music and attend his live shows are urban-based, while Zimbabweans in the Diaspora account for virtually all of his international music sales plus a growing series of live shows too.
Even in the absence of a formal survey, it goes without saying that the majority among all these groups are not only opposed to the Zanu PF government, but are also active or passive supporters and sympathisers of the opposition MDC.
And because Zimbabwe is so politically polarised that the majority on either side of the political divide have become fundamentalist and only make themselves amenable to views and perspectives that reinforce or correspond to their own, those who wish to sustain interaction or relations with them at a level other than political, have sometimes been forced to pander to the same overriding political impulse as well.
In short, politics subsumes everything and in Zimbabwe, you are who you support. Depending on where you stand, one is a devil or an angel, a good guy or a bad guy. It does not help matters that both sides think they constitute the exclusive truth; both seize democracy and popular national aspiration by the scruff of the neck and run away with them.
This reflects a deep-seated malaise at the heart of our national soul and no amount of self-righteous pontification by anyone would exorcise this ghost. The aspect of live and let live - crucial to the idea of toleration, that hallmark of democracy - has long been sacrificed at the alter of political expediency by Zanu PF, and it is sad that those who see themselves as fighting for democracy are actively suppressing its resurrection, for the same reasons.
This latest episode helps complete the caricature of a psychotically intolerant society whose members are desperately trying to out-compete each other in selling their mutually exclusive versions of political righteousness: on the one hand you've got the Herald and ZBH giving vent to establishment and broadly Zanu paranoia by banning and vilifying Zimbabwe's one true-to-the-bone Gandanga, Thomas Mapfumo for criticising the system; and on the other you've got New Zimbabwe.com, The Standard and some of its followers championing a crusade to hang the nation's leading social commentator-in-song, Oliver Mtukudzi, for singing at a political party rally!
I shudder to imagine the kind of atrocious commissions against individual freedom that my fellow Zimbabweans are willing to visit upon themselves in the name of democracy. If I had access to U2's Bono, I'd ask him how many of his old Tory fans he's lost ever since appearing with Tony Blair at the Labour national convention last year! All those Hollywood stars who come out in support of George W Bush last November, have any pro-Democrat radio stations banned their music, or have any of their movies been boycotted? Newspapers do have agenda-setting powers, but I only hope they could be less petty than this.
Chofamba Sithole is a Zimbabwean journalist. He writes from Leicester, England
But unlike other musicians such as Andy Brown and Simon Chimbetu, Oliver Mtukudzi’s career did not suffer any knock from the performance at Mujuru’s party.
Interview with Afropop in 2000
We reached Oliver by telephone during his fall 2000 US tour. The tour had started late because Oliver had to return home to attend the funeral of his mother.
AFROPOP WORLDWIDE: Oliver, we were sorry to hear about the recent death of your mother.
OLIVER MTUKUDZI: It's one of those things.
AW: How do you describe your music to people who are not familiar with it?
OM: My music is a fusion of different rhythms of Zimbabwe. We have jit, mbira, dandanda, mbukumba, katekwe--that's a rhythm of the north of Zimbabwe, the Zambezi Valley. Take "Muranda Kumwe." The basic laydown is mbukumba. But the electric guitar is playing the katekwe time on top of that mbukumba time."
AW: Your new album, Paivepo (Putumayo), contains some interesting reflections on family customs. Can you explain the song "Ndagarwa Nhaka?"
OM: "Ndagarwa Nhaka" discusses the tradition where when a man dies, his brother can marry his widow. I mean, traditionally, inheritance is not bad at all. It's a good thing to do. But some selfish people nowadays take advantage of that law and use it to suit their personal needs. That's when people complain that inheritance is bad, but it wasn't meant to be bad. When it's been done the right way, it works. When one dies, somebody has to take care of that family, to help it out. That's how it was designed. But some selfish people now take it as an advantage to them and feel that that if he is the inheritor of that family, he is supposed to take the woman as a wife. That's sexual abuse, which is not it. He is meant to be there for the family and to take care of their problems. If he wants to marry that woman, then he has to propose afresh. And if the woman doesn't want, that's it."
AW: Then the song "Sandi Bonde" seems to be coming at the subject a different way.
OM: Yes. "Sandi Bonde" is the opposite of the first one. "Sandi Bonde" means that to inherit is not sex. It's got nothing to do with sex. In my case, when my father died, my mother appointed me as the inheritor of the family--me, her son. I'm saying inheritance is not about sex. But people are abusing cultural law to suit their own needs.
AW: This has been an interesting year in Zimbabwe. What has all this political turmoil been like for you?
OM: My personal feeling is that from the time of the referendum and the parliamentary elections, it's a step towards positive change. I think everybody knows now what the nation feels. It's not just a matter of being dictated to. People showed what they feel about the whole situation. People are tired of the same thing. They want a change, something different from the last 20 years.
AW: Did you take a position during the elections?
OM: Well, I was involved in the song that encouraged people to go and vote. I really wanted people to say out their feelings so that the government knows exactly what they feel about everything. And that really happened. The elections were very quiet, but at the end of the day, they had showed their feelings.
AW: I gather you took some heat for a song called "Mkuru Mkuru." What is it about?
OM: This song is talking about leadership. If you are a leader, you have to show by example. If your young ones go wrong, then you are able to tell them they are wrong. But if you as the head of the family go wrong, please, try to be realistic. Accept your critics.
AW: We heard that government people complained about this song. But didn't you actually write the song back in 1978?
OM: Yes. It's on my first album. You see, when I write a song, I don't mean a particular person. I sing for the people. I point out wrongdoings of people, and if it comes and it affects you, that's not my problem. I'm just saying the truth.
AW: Just the same, government representatives took the song personally, didn't they?
OM: They came and asked me, and I told them, well, if the leader is being affected by this song then that means there is something wrong with him. But I'm talking about any head of family. "Mkuru Mkuru" applies to any family, but families make up a community, and communities make up the nation. When I wrote my song about AIDS, governments' talk about scary figures about such and such a year and how many people will have died of AIDS. But they don't want talk about that. They just talk about these little issues that happen in their everyday lives, in their homes. Those little things grow into a big problem. Those little things happening in every home--that means it's a national issue. I take it from the root. Little issues that people don't talk about, but that's where the problem is.
AW: We know that Thomas Mapfumo had some songs banned from airplay. Of course, that just made the songs more popular.
OM: That's always the case. If you restrict a song, people get curious. They want to know the song more. You are only promoting the song. Maybe they [the government] don't understand how the media works. Anyway, he [Mapfumo] was just saying the truth.
AW: So do you feel that Zimbabwe has turned a corner with the elections this year?
OM: I feel a bit comforted. At least people can say something. At least they have opened up. They have told the truth. They are saying their feelings now, which is a positive thing. When you don't hide your feelings you are likely to improve. I think the Zimbabwean nation is very patient. But that doesn't mean that a patient nation can't get cross. After the election there was a feeling of excitement. At least there was a step achieved. But I'm sure they haven't forgotten. They are still waiting to see what is going to happen as a result.
AW: Big problems can't be solved overnight.
The relationship between Debbie and Mtukudzi ended after he had performed solo at the Sports Diner. He was accompanied but his wife Daisy who received the payement after the performance. When he had his 53rd birthday, it was clear that Debbie was out. But when I broke the story, both Mtukudzi and Debbie denied it.
It became clear with time that Daisy had taken over. Of course, there are managers upfront but from the look of things, Daisy is in charge.