The lanky self-taught guitarist died on Wednesday at the age of 66.
He was a legend in the vibrant cross-genre music of Afro-jazz, with more than 60 albums under his belt in a career that spanned 45 years.
He was a nation-builder. Where it was necessary to criticize he would, and where it was necessary to praise he would.
Mtukudzi’s work, dubbed “Tuku music”, was a mixture of ethnic styles, including the Zulu-rooted mbaqanga from South Africa, and drew on diverse instruments, including Zimbabwe’s mbira, a metal-tined, hand-held instrument.
In this article, we explore some highlights of his career that endeared him to the people of Zimbabwe.
1980: Celebrating Zimbabwe’s independence
In 1980, Mtukudzi celebrated Zimbabwe’s independence by singing the country’s new national anthem, “Ishe Komborera Africa” (God Bless Africa).
1993: The mega-hit Neria
Neria, a story narrating the struggles of a widow, who could not inherit her husband’s wealth, because of cultural norms, is one of Mtukudzi’s most popular songs.
The film Neria, which tells this story, is the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history.
2001: Wasakara, a message for Mugabe?
While Mtukudzi mostly avoided mixing politics with his career, in 2001, his song ‘Wasakara’, was interpreted by many as a veiled message to the country’s longtime leader Robert Mugabe, asking him to retire.
Wasakara which is from the widely spoken Shona language in Zimbabwe means ‘accept that you are old’.
2018: A fitting farewell for Tsvangirai
In February last year, Mtukudzi was a comforting voice for many Zimbabweans, when he sang at the funeral of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Buhera.
In death, Mtukudzi united the country one more time, as Zimbabweans, who have been going through tough economic times and deadly protests over the last two weeks, mourned the country’s fallen hero.
“He was a nation-builder. Where it was necessary to criticize he would, and where it was necessary to praise he would,” said Paul Mangwana, a senior official with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
He said he supported calls by Zimbabweans that Mtukudzi is buried at the national heroes’ acre.
Zimbabwean Minister of Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry consoles musician Oliver Mtukudzi’s wife Daisy at their family home in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 23, 2019