By Maxwell Sibanda
The death of music superstar and national hero Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi will see a number of books, documentaries and even films on him being produced.
His story is a larger-than-life tale in which he released more than 60 music albums, several single records and featured in the film Neria of which he composed the soundtrack which went on to be a hit.
The singer toured the whole world and in the process recorded duet songs with some of the best musicians including United States singing sensation Bonnie Raitte with whom he did the rendition of his song Hear Me Lord.
Tuku won countless local music awards including a South Africa Kora and was awarded honourary degrees by two local universities; the University of Zimbabwe and the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU).
Academics from GZU which conferred an honorary doctorate on Mtukudzi in 2014 are reportedly working on a book project chronicling the singer’s life titled ‘The Life and Times of Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (1952-2019)’ which “will academically package the contributions Mtukudzi made to the Pan-African discourse through his lengthy musical career.”
A lot of stories about Tuku are likely to come in different narrations.
Even in the recent past days since his death a number of writers, academics, professors and researchers are penning obituaries and eulogies.
But while all those aforementioned gave us snippets of Tuku’s life and music, not even a single one was nearer a complete story about the singer.
For scholars, researchers and other academics who in future would like to learn more about Tuku; the real man he was, the music composer, the performer, the humanitarian, the father, the band leader, the politician and the businessman; they need to read, Tuku Backstage his biography written by journalist and former Tuku Music staffer Shepherd Mutamba.
Without it one will not be really informed about the singer, a human being like everybody, and how his music compositions related to the life he lived.
The book, released in 2015 angered a number of the musician’s fans as the writer published what they thought were salacious revelations including the musician’s strained relationship with his musician daughter, Selmor.
While most of the angered readers only jumped to read the ‘juicy scandalous’ content about him and his family’s internal politics, they missed everything else that made Tuku the great musician.
Most of the chapters in the book are about Tuku and his music; how he composes music, how he does it and all the stuff that goes on.
Mutamba, as Tuku’s publicist was always with the star and in the book captures the highs and lows in the singer’s composing world.
While Tuku was said to be angry at the time of the book’s publication, he simply did nothing to stop its continued sale. If indeed the book was all ‘lies’ as we were made to believe, am sure Tuku had enough money to sue Mutamba for malice and publishing falsehoods.
But he didn’t and let it go into the public domain.
I think Tuku did not take lightly certain aspects of the book especially when his family members were being interviewed; hence his response upon its unauthorised publication was understandable.
At one time he referred to Mutamba, who chose not to attend his funeral, as a ‘barking dog’.
The late music superstar was a man of standing; he was Unicef’s goodwill ambassador and National Arts Council of Zimbabwe board member and a full member of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe among other prestigious positions, hence what was being revealed was indeed painful.
In Zimbabwe, it is culturally wrong to expose elders; panezvimwe zvisingataurwe (there are other things that are better not said).
Unfortunately Mutamba said those things contrary to popular traditional belief.
In our culture though, there are two characters in families who have the liberty to say whatever they feel like. These are vazukuru (the nephews) and vanambuya (wives to one’s uncles).
Your nephews can tell you that which you think cannot be said and they tell you openly without any reprimand. Whether you are rich or old, they just tell it like it is!
And then you have vanambuya and these are careless with words especially at funerals and they will tell whoever is at the funeral about the deceased’s bad habits be it your adulterous life, your drug infested life, your crime rigged life, yes, anything comes with them. And they enjoy exposing you.
Mutamba played the ambuya but his problem was that he did his act while Tuku was still alive and many traditionalists were angered by such behaviour.
But on the other hand had he written the book after Tuku’s death people would have questioned why he hadn’t written it when the singer was still alive so that he could respond to all the accusations published.
Mutamba was fair; he published Tuku’s biography while the singer was still alive. Most of the material is not fabricated but came from live interviews with Tuku’s family. And all the people spoken to including wife Daisy are still alive; if they had problems with the book’s contents they could have ganged up and sued him. But they didn’t!
Asked in one media interview at the time of launching the first edition on what motivated him to write a book on Tuku, Mutamba said he was driven most by the superstar’s creative prowess and personality which had not been unpacked in book form.
“If he were to die all his rich musical and cultural history would go with him. I felt as a writer and cultural activist I had the responsibility to write and preserve his colossal musical history and legacy for posterity and in book form because no one was doing that.