Musical legend Oliver Mtukudzi has died in Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare. Known as “Tuku” to his fans, the musician had been battling illness for a month, according to Newsday Zimbabwe.
Tuku was prolific and beloved in his home country, recording more than 60 albums and providing a soundtrack that winds from Zimbabwe’s independence struggles in the ‘70s through the end of the Mugabe era. Although not as overtly political as his peer Thomas Mapfumo, Tuku empathetically addressed issues. In 1998, he released a song about the circumstances facing those who are HIV positive or have AIDS. It was something most musicians wouldn’t address, in a country that still has one of the highest HIV rates in southern Africa.
Afropop had the privilege of speaking with Mtukudzi as recently as 2011, when he was in New York on an Africa Acoustic tour with Malians Habib Koite and Afel Bocoum. Excerpts from that concert can be heard on our "21st Century Troubadours" program.
Tributes to the beloved musician are popping up on Twitter, and are being compiled on news websites such as The Citizen and OkayAfrica. Afropop's Banning Eyre spoke with Mtukudzi at Thomas Mapfumo's homecoming concert in April 2018 and is planning a tribute program for the near future.
Tributes to Tuku have been popping up from all over the globe.
Zimbabwe's president has declared him a national hero:
Today we said goodbye to a true patriot. Oliver Mtukudzi, your voice has given us comfort during difficult times, and will remain with us for posterity. Rest in peace comrade. pic.twitter.com/XZkyVbQ4Qq
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) January 23, 2019
This afternoon, while paying a condolence visit to his family, I was proud to announce that Oliver Mtukudzi has been declared a national hero. Though he is no longer with us, his music will never die pic.twitter.com/hHypxt5uic
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) January 24, 2019
Thomas Mapfumo: “I loved his voice and the way he used to write his music. He was such a great inspiration to those who were upcoming.”
The Washington Post has run a piece that wraps up tributes from the African National Congress in South Africa, officials in Zimbabwe and Mtukudzi's peers.
Check out an audio tribute to Tuku from PRI.
Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of music legend & human rights activist Oliver Mtukudzi. He is immortalized through the contribution he made to the arts, with talent that fired up all of Africa. Deepest condolences to his loved ones. From his No. 1 fan in the whole world. pic.twitter.com/SKuhCAVNvU— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 24, 2019
According to Nairobi News, and Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper Herald, Mtukudzi's death has been linked to the singer's long battle with diabetes.