Oliver Mtukudzi confesses he is ‘dying’ inside

By Robert Mukondiwa

He may be the colossal embodiment of a realisation of the Zimbabwean dream and arguably the country’s most prized ‘export’ to the rest of the world, but mega music star Oliver ‘Tuku Rudaviro’ Mtukudzi is crumbling and dying inside. He has no reason to celebrate his birthday today as he turns 59; and he has poured his heart out to H-Metro.

Selmor, Brooklyn, Oliver, Sam Mtukudzi, and a friend at Oliver's 56th birthday party, September, 2008
Selmor, Brooklyn, Oliver, the late Sam Mtukudzi, and a friend at Oliver’s 56th birthday party, September, 2008

The katekwe star has gone through an annus horribilis-a horrible year: His darkest year.  Marked first by the death of his beloved son Samson in mid-March last year and capped just last Thursday by the shattering death of his trusted lieutenant, sound engineer and close relative-his Uncle ‘Sekuru’ Wonder Mukonowenzou.

Oliver opened up H-Metro last night and the crackle of his heart breaking was palpable, one could feel it even over the phone. “Zvakaoma shamwari. Ndiri kungofirwa. Zviri kunetsa,” said the man in his trademark gravel laden voice which was smeared with anguish as he spoke.

(Things are not well. I am just suffering bereavement after bereavement. The going is tough.)

Oliver said he would break with tradition. He would NOT celebrate or even in the least mark his birthday. “You can’t celebrate anything in light of the death. In our tradition the person’s soul is still wandering and has not rested amongst its ancestors so celebrating is far from my mind right now.”

“We are not talking about the birthday. We are not even thinking about it. “Sekuru Wonder passed away at a terrible time,” he said. Tuku opened up in what was his first personal account of the pain he has gone through in the past week. He spoke at length about the harsh criticism his Delta beverages (Chibuku Road to Fame) performance attracted in its wake, saying his mind was not in one place as he performed straight after the funeral.

With hands fresh from holding a shovel to bury a loved one, a guitar had to get in its stead. The voice that was mourning bitterly for a loved one was expected to sing a song of celebration and the yes that had freshly wept were expected to gleam into the stars and feign happiness; it was too much, Tuku confirmed. 

“How would I have been expected to perform extremely well? I had just buried Wonder and left straight for the show. It (the show) had already been planned so I could not let people down,” he added. Throughout the interview, the man whose voice sounds like broken glass kept slipping into a near dirge as the rasping grating voice expressed anguish.

Once again in two consecutive years, the man who is stoic and has been known to help others through his strong and strengthening lyrical words of wisdom and encouragement has now been the one who himself needs encouragement, compassion and a shoulder to cry on. Once again, he has opened up to H-Metro and said for the second year in a row celebrations are not in order.

However, Josh Hozheri of Jazz 105, the venue where Tuku was supposed to hold a show which was subsequently cancelled owing to Sekuru Wonder’s death said the industry was behind him full time and wished Oliver all the best in his personal birthday milestone. “Jazz 105 has worked well with Tuku and we are quite close to him and his passion humbles us.

We are with him in this dark time and we hope he emerges and keeps on working for the brand and the passion for which we celebrate him.”

“We are with him and carry him in our prayers and good wishes and would like to wish him a happy birthday in spite of the trials and the dark times that he is currently undergoing,” said Hozheri.

No doubt his legions of fans are also praying for the man to rise above his current tribulations and belt out a happy song as soon as he emerges from the dismal avalanche of ill fortune that has engulfed him. H Metro