Mtandazo Dube Leisure Editor
\nSUPERSTAR Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, who turns 63 this Tuesday, last week castigated “exaggerated media reports” that paint him as a dying man — even when a mere flu bug hits him. “Well, you know people, our fans, those who like what we do — at times they get confused, they can’t separate Oliver Mtukudzi from the art. By so doing and because they are so overwhelmed by what they like about Mtukudzi they don’t see him as a person. To them Mtukudzi should not get sick.

\n

“Mtukudzi should always be healthy to give them what they want, but Mtukudzi is a human being and to borrow from Tocky (Vibes), ‘ndiri munhuwo’. Mtukudzi is a human being who catches diseases and falls sick like everyone else,” said Tuku in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure at his Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton.

\n

Tuku has had his multitudes of fans in panic mode ever since he revealed that he was diabetic a few years ago.
\n“Of course, I spoke about being diabetic back then because I was scared at the time. I didn’t even know what being diabetic meant. The doctors told me that I probably had been diabetic for over 15 years, but had been saved by my healthy lifestyle.

\n

“Mtukudzi is not made of steel, he is a human being like you. Failure to go to work — for me — because of flu, it’s because flu attacks that very same voice that I would want to use to sing for the people.

\n

“Kurwara hakuzi kufa. I’m not dying, I have been declared dead seven times. Zvikanzi ‘afa afa afa’ but you never know where the rumour is coming from. I’m not a super human being — we are the same. It’s just that when we fail to fulfil a show, the way it is then written and reported is like my conditioned has worsened and I’m dying.

\n

“That is what I have a problem with. I end up getting calls from worried relatives and friends, and in the end I don’t get the rest and time to myself that I need because of the phone calls after people read these exaggerated stories,” said the maestro.
\n‘If I could turn back time’

\n

While his music, captured on more than 60 studio albums, bears different messages, for his 63rd birthday Tuku felt he needed to get something off his chest.

\n

“Let us not underestimate a second or a minute that we have in life. We are all lucky that we can see the next day. Ngativei vanhu vanoziva kuti hatina nguva yatinofunga kuti tinayo.

\n

“Let’s celebrate ourselves every minute, because to achieve whatever we achieve is because we are given time to do it. Let’s make sure we respect, appreciate and thank God for that time. Sixty-three (years) is a long time, but for it all to come to 63 it comes from a minute, a day.
\n“Do you pray each day you wake up or spend working, to say thank you for the time you gave us, thank you for the time we look forward to? It is not about me being 63, it is about us as a people.

\n

“How best are we using the time that we have? How best are we using the day we have been given? Because we are all special we can’t be superior to the other. We are all the same people. We are unique — let’s celebrate our life.”

\n

Tuku says in his 40 years as a professional musician, he has worked with close to, if not more than, 65 band members, and a good number of those people including founders of the Black Spirits and very close friends, have passed on.

\n

“Looking back, I have a rich history, personal history of the people that I worked with. The first cut usually is the deepest. People like Bartholomew Chirenda, a brilliant guitarist, who passed on; Kenny Mkwesha, a brilliant dancer-cum vocalist — mentioning their names brings memories, you start thinking of how you were then zera ramanga muri, the good times you had, our quarrels, all those things come back — if I could turn back the hands of time.

\n

“It was a wonderful time. I see it as a stepping stone now but at that time that was all we had, ndozvangazviripo, it was our way of life, it had to be like that. I have lost people like Joseph Alpheus. The only surviving member from that initial team is James Austin. We were just rehearsing doing some sessions here recently – it brings back memories.

\n

“It’s a time that I cherish because I didn’t know that what I was doing then I would still be using it today. I was the eldest in the group, age wise, my young brother (Robert) too joined us after Wagon Wheels. He is the one who came up with the name Black Spirits.

\n

“We had many members like Mulla (Moses Nyaruka) who joined us, others died and a lot of people came through. The root is the anchor until today. The ups and downs we had create a history for me.”

\n

The internationally acclaimed performer, says all the people he worked with were special as they contributed to what he is today.
\n“I do not have anyone in my band that I can call special because everyone was a special piece to the band. Everyone brought something in the creation of brand Oliver Mtukudzi.

\n

“There are over 65 members that have come and gone. All these people at some point were called Black Spirits. They are all special people, those who have died and those who are alive.

\n

“It has been a long journey and I cherish a lot of people who have brought in some clarity into the work. I wrote all songs, arranged them but there are cases where some of these people would challenge me saying what I would have created was wrong and they would bring in their own creations. I am open and would always accept the challenge and at times the song came out even better.”

\n

Artistic national heroes
\nThe Legend also had a word or two on the status artistes have in Zimbabwe.
\n“I am pained by the way we are viewed as artistes. People cannot live without us. By us I mean all artistes — poets, sportspeople, musicians, dancers, journalists etcetera – we are not looked at as important people in life. If you look at it, we are important to people even in their private lives but they do not want to say it, to acknowledge us, to thank us while we are still alive.

\n

“When things are tough, the arts keep life going — book writers, playwrights, musicians, even the news people. But then when people start looking at who is a hero, artistes are not considered. They start looking at other heroes. We are not saying they are not heroes, but we are simply saying we are heroes too,” said Tuku.

\n

“In my music, I mentioned one, Safirio Madzikatire, because when he died I had my expectations, to say yes, this one is a hero. Even during the liberation struggle, this is one guy I would meet down under kuChecheche, Zvishavane and other places that no other musician dared go to.
\n“Kureva kuti Safirio anga achipa vanhu upenyu panguva iyoyo (meaning Safirio gave people life/hope at that time). Even liberation war fighters sometimes stopped fighting to attend a Safirio show; to watch and laugh. To me this guy deserves hero status.

\n

“Until his death he was giving life and hope, healing broken hearts. He is also our national hero. I’m sure anga asingango joke kumba kwake chete, he did it for the whole nation. Kumba anga atori baba. Abuda mumba manje, he then became a comedian. So he was for the people, for the nation.

\n

“This year is my 40th year in music. In December I will invite friends that are still alive and others who are close to celebrate this feat. People like Zexie Manatsa, he is someone I can never forget, Four Brothers, Kavhango Boys.

\n

“But to be able to travel it was because of Manatsa because we did not have any musical equipment. Zexie is the only one who helped us as the Black Spirits when we had nothing but our talents. Looking back there are a lot of people that contributed a lot in my life as an artiste.”

\n

Proudly Zimbabwean
\nAs has become the norm, top promoters in the country, corporates, friends of Tuku Music, and Pakare Paye Arts Centre come together every year to throw a big birthday bash for Oliver Mtukudzi.

\n

What is unique this year is that the gig features a line-up of local artistes only.
\nEveryone —from man-of-the-moment Jah Prayzah, to Zimdancehall stars Soul Jah Love, Seh Calaz and Killer T — will be in action. King of Sungura Alick Macheso will be there and so will dendera crooner Suluman Chimbetu and the high-flying Peter Moyo.

\n

The “usual suspects”, like Africa Revenge, Picky Kasamba, Munya Mataruse, Diamond Musica, ExQ; and new faces at this gig, such as Franco Slomo, will all take part in mammoth event, which this year has been incorporated into the ever-growing and popular Harare International Carnival.

\n

Also present will be the DJs: Judgement Yard, Templeman and Gary B, DJ Cables, and DJ Stavo all being part of the birthday party.
\nSaid Tuku: “My thinking here was, yes, we have international friends, but this year, let us do our own thing. So that we can share and show everyone that we are friends. Of course, our fans can make us fight, make our music, our brands fight, but that is the nature of this job, that is always bound to happen.

\n

“But it does not mean that because our fans are different we then become enemies, no. When we meet it generates a lot of interest. So this is a message to our fans as well as to us as artistes that we are one.

\n

“That when we do our things we are not doing it for competition, we do what we do because we are unique. We do this for the people even though fans will think we are competing. Our job, the purpose of song, is to give life and hope to the people.”

\n

Music industry not dying
\nAlthough, he travels around the world and spends much time touring abroad, Tuku is not blind to the challenges his colleagues face back home.
\n“Contrary to popular belief, music in Zimbabwe is an industry, in fact, it is a business. Being an artiste one is born a businessperson. It is a business that has grown that is maturing. If I look back from the days I started until now, I see a trend of improvement in quality.

\n

“Our industry is not dying. Because it is shouting, people confuse it with the economy. We are a culture and a culture never dies. The economy can be rectified, it can restored, it can be destroyed but culture remains there for the economy to be there,” declared Tuku.

\n

The Norton-based artiste also believes Zimbabwe has enough talent and focused young artistes to safeguard its culture and take the industry forward.

\n

“Although we are affected by other cultures, I see a lot of youngsters that are refusing to be secondary, refusing to be second hand, refusing to be inferior to another culture, which is a positive thing.

\n

“Of course, we have a lot of others who think that being themselves is not stylish enough, is not the thing of the day. Well I not worried about those because there are judging themselves on a day. They are dealing with a thing of the day.

\n

“There are those that are being who they are for every day, for every month, for every year, for every future. You see those pushing to be who they are and you can tell that their development is always there because they are not imitating anybody, they are not being secondary and they are not attracted by another culture to extent of abandoning their own.

\n

“We still need all these people to create our own culture. There is an evolution happening, culture is always changing and people’s behaviour changes as well. There are things that expire and those that remain intact and entrenched in our culture.
\n“Those that are dealing with that which expires, they will see it soon enough.

\n

“So it is those that are maintaining what a Zimbabwean is, oh yes, those will never die vacharamba vachienderera mberi, these are ones taking the baton stick from us and will give it to those that will come, those that believe that being a Zimbabwean is not inferior at all.”