By Kwekwe Correspondent
DESPITE his global fame, the late Oliver Mtukudzi actively shunned celebrity and its trappings, close associates have said.
Tuku, as he was popularly known by fans, was buried at his rural home on Sunday after succumbing to a long battle against diabetes last Wednesday.
He was Zimbabwe’s most internationally recognised musician and cultural icon, performing all over the world and winning many awards over a decades-long career.
Even so, Tuku actively shunned the trappings of celebrity.
“He never saw himself as a celebrity,” said Nicodemous Manyame, a close confidant and former Tuku manager and also chairperson of the superstar’s Pakare Paye Arts Centre.
According to Manyame, Tuku drove himself and never moved around with an entourage of bodyguards and minders as some celebrities do.
Their relationship started in the early 1990s and Tuku would get angry if he was referred to as a superstar or called famous.
According to Manyame, Tuku would insist that; “My music is famous, but I am not famous.
“If you take music away from me then there is no Mtukudzi. Without my music I am nothing.”
Manyame added; “The mere fact that he (Tuku) would befriend an ordinary man like me clearly shows how humble he was.
“Being a music promoter myself, I met Tuku in 1993. I was then doing a project with a gospel musician the late Brain ‘The Sparrow’ Sibalo from Redcliff.
“I wanted him to assist us in that project. From then on, a relationship blossomed.”
Manyame met Tuku when the star moved to Kwekwe to recover emotionally and physically as he was, at the time, going through a divorce with his first wife Melody and also wanted to recuperate from an illness.
“It was in Kwekwe that he met his wife Daisy who hails from this place,” said Manyame, adding that he realised Tuku’s composing prowess during the formative days of his relationship with Daisy.
The song Svovi was a secret song which we did with him. It was dedicated to Daisy as a wedding gift.
“That’s when I first noticed his composing qualities, he would play any guitar from bass to lead and keyboards.”
It was also during his time in Kwekwe that Tuku worked with local ensemble Zig Zag Band and its famous guitarist Gilbert Zvamaida.
Now lead guitarist for Chimurenga maestro Thomas Mapfumo, Zvamaida said he was devastated by Tuku’s passing.
“I am devastated to say the least that we last shared the stage with him in April,” Zvamaida told NewZimbabwe.com.
I have lost a band mate and a brother to me. It is so hurtful. We have been robbed of a legend for sure.”
Tuku has also been commended for mentoring many young and upcoming artists after establishing his Pakare Paye Arts Centre.
But some big names in the industry also owe a lot to him, among them the late Sungura star Tongai Moyo.
“The first interaction Tuku had with Tongai Moyo was at Batanai Tavern in Amaveni when they were rehearsing,” said Manyame.
“He was captivated with the Utakataka beat which was leaning towards the former Leonard Dembo beat.
“He went at length to assist them in recording their first album.”
Peter Moyo, son to the late Tongai, added; “I was touched when Tuku told me that he would use his own money to help my father record and do rehearsals because by that time Tuku was based in Kwekwe.
“After explaining everything he said to me Peter I am happy that you came and I want to tell you something, that you have to do good things to others not that you are forced or what but because it’s just good to do so.”
Rock of Ages Ministry’s Bishop Edward Tavaziva also knew Tuku during his days in Kwekwe.
“As a kid, I remember people going to his house and waiting outside the fence seeing him playing his guitar.
I would be the last to leave the place. One day I was coming from school and he invited me into his yard. From then on, I would go to his house whenever I felt like.”
So close was the relationship between the young Tavaziva, who was then at primary school, and Tuku that the former was featured on the video to one of Tuku’s song ‘Street Kid’ where Tavaziva acted the street kid role.
“He groomed me to be what I am,” said Tavaziva.
“To imagine he mentored me from around Grade 3 and, appearing in some videos like ‘Street Kid’ taken from his 1986 album (Waona).
“I remember the days when we could ride to shows on my motor bike.”
Tavaziva also explained how Tuku met the Zig Zag Band.
“He had gone to visit his uncle Mr Kadenhe who used to run Club Hideout 007 and was captivated by rhythm guitarist Gilbert who could play all of Tuku’s songs.
“He started rehearsing with them a few days after, resulting in the release of an album with popular songs such as ‘Dzikamawo Wakura’ and ‘Pss Pss Hello’.
Tuku’s humility and dedication to uplifting others also saw Tuku play a key role in the rise of Kwekwe group Penga Udzoke Band to stardom.
This sense of responsibility to fellow and upcoming artists saw Tuku moot the idea of setting up Pakare Paye Arts Centre in the 1990s which dream was realised in the early 2000s.
Amongst other notable artists who also passed through Pakare Paye are Canada-based Munya Matarutse and Garry Tight.
The greatest vision for the arts centre was that someday it would be inherited by Tuku’s son Sam who tragically died in a road traffic accident.
“Though he said he was never going to hang up the microphone, Tuku knew that someday he would need to hand over the legacy to Sam,” said Manyame.
“I was Sam’s manager and mooted the idea of Mhou ne Mhuru Yayo were the two were supposed to be on stage together. It’s unfortunate they only performed together before the death of Sam.
“I think he did not recover from Sam’s death and this might have also contributed to his (own passing).”