Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: Tuku’s passing reminds us of why we should record history for posterity

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I was going through my video footage External Hard drives this afternoon when I thought that I should share this never seen before video of Sam Mtukudzi.

Oliver and Sam Mtukudzi
Oliver and Sam Mtukudzi

Sam was Oliver Mtukudzi’s only son whom he thought was going to inherit his music empire underpinned by his Pakare Paye Arts Center in Norton.

He was a gifted multi instrumentalist and singer, a young man with amazing humour and a lanky frame like his dad Oliver, matched by Tuku’s natural humility.

Unfortunately Sam died in a car accident in 2010, the accident also took the life of his best friend Owen Chimhare.

It broke Tuku’s heart and spirit and that feeling was expressed in two powerful and profound songs, Sarawoga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nXpuG6lY74&t=60s and Ronga Dondo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or9Qqq9OgPI.

Sarawoga and Ronga Dondo hauntingly express the pain that Oliver was feeling when he penned them in memory of his son.

He insisted that I should use Sarawoga in State of Mind, it is part of many musical pieces that he arranged for me in State of Mind, as I have said before, he did all this for free.

That was the basis of Pakare Paye, he built it to assist young artists and to teach those who didn’t have the musical facilities to learn from, it was a project informed by his past and how he struggled to make it during his early days.

One day I will share the last interview that I had with Tuku where he explained how torn he was when Sam died.

I don’t think he ever got over losing his only son, very few people can because as he explains in Ronga Dondo, the parents are meant to go first before their kids.

When I went to collect the State of Mind soundtrack at Pakare Paye, we had so much fun in his studio with him showing me pictures of his rural home, and his early years in Highfield.

He had never been that happy with me before, he took me on a tour of Pakare Paye as if it was my first time being there.

I didn’t realize that in three months time he too would be gone just like that, that was the last time I saw him, that was our goodbye.

I am very disappointed with myself because I should have recorded Tuku singing with his acoustic guitar much more than I did.

The opportunities were there, but I never thought about his mortality, we never do especially with people we want to live forever.

Tuku could be stubborn and at times difficult to get him to sit down with that famous acoustic guitar of his, but he was a good man who understood the art of listening, advising and helping especially the young.

On a good day you could get him to do anything you wanted as long as it involved his craft, that was my experience with him, never pretentious but resolutely honest.

That is why I am angry with myself for not having recorded him much more before my camera.

When the opportunities were there, we would instead sit and just chat away as most boys do talking politics, industry stories and even a bit of innocent banter.

I have always been worried that very little has been recorded of our iconic musicians and many other artistic genres like sculpturing.

I remember Tuku telling my editor on State of Mind, Olaf Koschke and myself about how he regretted that ZBC allowed the tape with the full recording of his famous Sakubva concert to wither away.

Oliver Mtukudzi at a Concert in the 80s:


He told me that he tried everything possible to save the recording including taking the tape to South Africa to specialists to try and salvage it, unfortunately is was all in vain, it couldn’t be saved, another piece of great historical value lost through incompetence.

Why was he telling me all this? I had taken two hours of Sam’s jam session to him, part of the recording where I took the attached song.

I bumped into Sam at The Zimbabwe International Film Festival where he was playing at a reception and I asked him if I could film the show since I had a camera with me.

He agreed and that is how the attached video and more was filmed.

Sam Mtukudzi singing his father’s classic, Chirimundari, in never seen before footage at a concert in 2007 filmed by Hopewell Chin’ono. Sam died in a car accident in 2010.

Tuku didn’t know that such a recording existed. That is why we need to record our lives a bit more, especially iconic events and artistic greats like Tuku and Mukanya.

If you ask the young ones today whether they know of Susan Mapfumo or Tineyi Chikupo, they will most likely say NO they don’t.

Some were even asking on social media who Thomas Mapfumo was, it is an indictment on my profession, a society will always consume what the media gives them on a platter.

We need to reawaken our social consciousness by consuming our arts more than we do today, our youths can sing Tupac’s lyrics word for word but very few of them can sing a James Chimombe song.

It is because other societies preserve their cultural heritage because they consider it important, human beings value what they deem to be special, we need to do so too.

Can we blame our youth for being nonchalant about our culture?

How can we blame the youths when we are supposed to teach them and expose them more to our culture both present and historical?

Yet if you ask any young British boy or girl if they know of the Sex Pistols or David Bowie, they will tell you that they do know of them, not because they like the Sex Pistols’ music, but because there is a constant effort being made by that society to memorialize their artistic experiences.

This is also because they have a functioning national broadcaster in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and a healthy private broadcasting system anchored by commercial broadcasters such as the Independent Television (ITV) and Channel 4.

Jamaicans pass on their musical history from generation to generation through the sound system culture.

Young Jamaicans play Jacob Miller and Bob Marley back to back with Buju Banton and Vybz Kartel.

I urge my fellow professionals in the media to record more of the reality around us for posterity and avoid the current situation where our history is found in Western libraries and not in Zimbabwe.

Filming these events as they unfold will be the only historical footprint that will be available when future generations want to look at their immediate and distant past and more importantly, learn from it.

Bob Marley sang in his classic No Woman, No cry that, “…in this bright future you can’t forget your past.”

Unfortunately we have allowed a lot of our past to go unrecorded, future generations will indeed forget that past because we are failing to leave a historical record of it.

Many families do not even have pictures of themselves with their departed relatives who only died twenty to thirty years ago.

I know that resources are difficult to come by for my professional colleagues because recording requires not only cameras but many External Hard drives that don’t come cheap, but let us use the available recording equipment to do as much as we can.

We have a professional obligation to be the national archivists, more so in a country like ours with very little leadership available to lead spirited campaigns to archive our history.

Susan Mapfumo was more radical than today’s “fashion” feminists, yet there is very little of her memory available online or in school and college libraries.

She should have been recorded on film and her music made known and continuously available for today’s youths to listen to and even study its messaging.

There are about seven PhDs so far on Oliver Mtukudzi’s work, almost all of them are tucked away in Europe and the US and some have been turned into books.

Our children will end up having to read about their history and culture through foreign lenses instead of consuming this history through local knowledge and perspectives.

Tuku’s passing has gotten me to think about what I didn’t do, he is gone so there is nothing I can do about the idea of filming him anymore, that bus left on Wednesday afternoon never to return.

However there is still Thomas Mapfumo, Alick Macheso, Madzibaba Zakaria, Mechanic Manyeruke, Zexie Manatse and many others.

I will now put all these chaps in front of my camera and record them as and when they are available, just random interviews will one day be historically important when we are gone, the same way that Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North is important to any serious documentary filmmaker.

I will share with you snippets of what I manage to get whenever I speak to them, let us make it our project to record our history and to professionally archive our icons.

Feel free to nag me about it and post below the names of people that you think we should be filming in interviews or their concerts, now and into the future.

Feel free to share whatever recordings you have of any of these stars, you will still keep your copyright for any commercial usage, mine is just to archive.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind. 

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.