‘My children can’t fill my shoes’

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi

Bruce Ndlovu , Sunday Life Correspondent
WHILE one of his daughters, Samantha Mtukudzi, is nursing injuries after being involved in a car accident, music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi says none of his children can fill his gigantic shoes, instead they should carve out their paths in life.
The music superstar said this during a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda where he had gone to perform at this year’s Kigali Jazz Junction last week.

After their alleged fallout a few years ago, Tuku had reunited with Samantha, the wife of former soccer star Tinashe Nengomasha, and she has once again become a part of his globetrotting band.

However, for his trip to Rwanda, Tuku, who has already lost his son Sam to a tragic road traffic accident, revealed that his daughter had been involved in a road traffic accident the day before they had been scheduled to travel to the East African country.

When Sunday Life enquired about Samantha’s condition or the circumstances of her accident from Tuku’s manager, Walter Wanyanya, his phone was off while he did not reply messages.

The death of Sam in a road accident in 2010 has been a bitter pill to swallow for Tuku, who had been mentoring the young musician regarded by many as a future star in his own right.

Not only did Sam’s path to superstardom seem guaranteed, he also destined to carry the Mtukudzi name and legacy into the future.

When death struck on 15 March, 2010 in Norton, it all but robbed Tuku of a male music heir.

In his interview in Rwanda he revealed that despite a late son and two daughters that were accomplished musicians in their own right, he wanted them to pursue their own paths as they could never be him.

“I lost a son that was a bit of musician. I have a daughter Selmor who is running her own band and unfortunately my second daughter didn’t make it this time, we were supposed to be with her but she didn’t make it. She had an accident yesterday morning so she’s in hospital so she couldn’t make it to Rwanda.

“All of these children, they’re not taking my career, no. They’ve to be who they are. They can’t fit in my shoes and I can’t fit in their shoes,” he said.

While Selmor’s career had improved in leaps and bounds over the years, Tuku said she has not shown any interest in her father’s work at an earlier age.

“Selmor surprised me. She became a musician but she was never close to me. When I was doing music she was never there but her older sister was always there so I thought she was going to take after me but she didn’t do music. So they’re being who they are and I’m being who I am,” he said.

While young musicians dreamt of being the next Oliver Mtukudzi, the  music superstar said that should not be the case, as authenticity had been the key to his own longevity.

“I was born Oliver Mtukudzi and I do Oliver Mtukudzi. When I do Oliver Mtukudzi I’m not competing with anyone but I’m complimenting everyone and by that you’ll never go wrong. The moment that you try to compete with someone, you’ll always be secondary because you’re going to be imitating whoever you’re competing (against).

“So I’ve been able to be in music, my journey in music is over 40 years now, I’ve always been Oliver Mtukudzi. That’s all I am,” he said.

It is this authenticity that is lacking in young African musicians; something that Tuku said disappointed him greatly.

“African music will always be African music. I’m scared for youngsters today who don’t want to be themselves. They want to be like R Kelly and they want to be like 50 Cent. They think it’s everything but who you are is the best and there’s no competition,” he said.

Over the years, Tuku has become known as one of the artistes whose music has tried to combat the HIV/ Aids scourge.

Songs such as Mabasa, where the artiste laments the deaths that have left the music star wondering who will bury or shed a tear for the dead when the whole population is being wiped out, have marked him as a rare breed among musicians.

From that song and others, Tuku has emerged as one of the few who can marry beauty and message in a song.

However, as beautiful and impactful as that song is, it perhaps has played second fiddle in Tuku’s impressive discography to Todii, a masterpiece that has won the veteran musicians across the continent.

Tuku revealed that he made that song with the intention of asking awkward questions during a time when the virus was decimating people in silence.

“When I did that song I think it was in 1999. During that time it was time to fight stigma to the diseases because people didn’t believe that Aids is a disease. We all believed that maybe it was witchcraft or something. Todii means what shall we do? That song is full of questions.

“What should you do if you discover that your pregnant wife is positive? Do you run away?

What are you going to do? So it was designed to trigger discussions among people. So that people at least talk about it and I’m glad and humbled to say that song did well in that sense.

I heard it being quoted by politicians, being quoted in churches, being quoted in schools and so many places.”

Initially, the song’s true meaning had been lost on audiences, Tuku said.

“People wanted to know what I was talking about. Some thought it was a love song and when they discovered that no, I was talking about HIV/ Aids, they were shocked. But that helped it serve its purpose and up to now people talk about it,” he said.