Tag Archives: Oliver Mtukudzi

Celebrated Zimbabwean Musician Oliver Mtukudzi Dies at 66

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi, one of the most important figures in Zimbabwean music in the past decades, died on January 23, 2019 at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Oliver Mtukudzi, also known as “Tuku,” was born on September 22, 1952 in Harare. He was an acclaimed guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, composer, actor, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the southern Africa Region.

For more information, read his full biography.


Artist Profiles: Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was born September 22, 1952 in Highfield, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Oliver’s professional music career spanned more than thirty years and produced over 40 original albums most of them best sellers in his native Zimbabwe. But it was his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe – playing to enthusiastic audiences in even the remotest parts of the country that earned him the respect and admiration of the people in Zimbabwe.

Tuku burst into the world of music in 1977 when he joined the now legendary Wagon Wheels which also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Success came to them early – the first single they recorded together “Dzandimomotera” rapidly went gold and was followed by Tuku’s first solo album (recorded on four tracks) which was also a smash hit. It was with a number of the musicians from the Wagon Wheels line-up that Oliver formed the Black Spirits the band that backed him throughout his career.

After Zimbabwean Independence in 1980, Oliver and the Black Spirits produced “Africa” one of the most important albums of its time and with the two hits it generated, ‘Zimbabwe’ and ‘Mazongonyedze’ the fledgling country found one of its first great voices.

Since Independence, Oliver released two albums every year, establishing himself as a producer/arranger a prolific songwriter and a formidable lead singer. Tuku was so innovative in these various fields that his distinctive music style is now widely described as “Tuku Music”. This is not to suggest that there are no recognizable influences in his work.

The traditional forms of mbira, the South African mbaqanga and the popular jit styles all affected it deeply – but these like katekwe, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan the Korekore were very much absorbed into a music form indubitably his own.

Oliver Mtukudzi

Apart from the individuality of his music Tuku’s enduring popularity largely resulted from his powers as a lyricist. Most of his songs focused on the social and economic issues that govern people’s daily lives. His infectious sense of optimism that pervaded all his music appealed to young and old alike.

His commitment to fighting the AIDs pandemic through his open approach to the topic in his songs contributed greatly to restoring a sense of care and responsibility within the wider community. As the oldest of seven children Oliver developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life due to the premature death of his father.

Oliver’s desire to bring his message to a wider audience led him to venture into the worlds of film and stage. Although he participated in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music during the 1980s including the BBC’s Under African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira it was not until 199 that Tuku found film success with a featured role in the internationally heralded JIT – the first local feature film with an all Zimbabwean cast.

Tuku followed the success of JIT with the role of the title character’s brother in Zimbabwe’s second feature film Neria for which he also wrote and arranged the soundtrack. A serious drama dealing with the thorny issue of woman’s rights in a chauvinist world, Neria proved to be another box-office triumph in Zimbabwe and earned Oliver the coveted M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992 against stiff competition, including that of the highly acclaimed Sarafina.

From film, Tuku turned his attention to the stage writing and directing the live musical-drama Was my Child a project highlighting the plight of Zimbabwe’s street children. For this accomplishment the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union honored him.

Oliver Mtukudzi and his band The Black Spirits toured North America in 1999 as part of Africa Fete appearing at many of the premier festivals and stages across the continent.

Oliver Mtukudzi

In April of 2005 Tuku released Nhava (HUCD 312) his debut album on Heads Up International. Mtukudzi said the album – named after the Zimbabwean word for “carrying bag” – is a satchel filled with nuggets of advice encouragement and wisdom for travelers on the journey of life as they make their way through an often-perilous world.

Every song on this album has something to teach about life something to remind you and encourage you about what is important in life ,“ said Mtukudzi who built a vast body of work by skillfully balancing compelling African rhythms and accessible melodies to address social issues relevant to not only his native Zimbabwe but to people and cultures everywhere. “All of these ideas are universal. They are the same for every human being regardless of their culture or their environment.”

Oliver Mtukudzi died on January 23, 2019 in Harare, Zimbabwe.


Tuku Music (Putumayo 152 1999)
Paivepo (Putumayo 168 2000)
Neria (Sheer Sound 2001)
Vhunze Moto (Putumayo 199 2002)
Bvuma / Tolerance (Sheer Sound 2002)
Shoko (Gallo Records 2002)
Greatest Hits the Tuku Years (Sheer Sound 2003)
Shanda (Alula Records 2003)
Oliver Mtukudzi Collection (Putumayo 214 2003)
Nhava (Heads Up International HUCD 312 2005)
Wonai (Sheer Sound 2006)
Tsimba Itsoka (Heads Up International 2007)
Dairai (Believe) (2008)
Rudaviro (Tuku Music 2010)
Kutsi Kwemoyo (2010)
Abi’angu (2011)
Sarawoga (2012)


The Significance of Oliver Mtukudzi’s Music Detailed in Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Oliver Mtukudzi, Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe


Oliver Mtukudzi, Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe (Indiana University Press, 2016), a 304-page book by Jennifer W. Kyker, provides fascinating details about one of Zimbabwe’s most influential musicians.

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is an acclaimed Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has become well known in the world music circuit, performing throughout the globe. On Living Tuku Music, the author focuses on several essential elements connected to Oliver Mtukudzi and his songs.

The first part of the book concentrates on Mtukudzi’s beginnings and musical development. Mtukudzi is known for his combination of Zimbabwean traditional sounds with South African township music and African American gospel and soul. Many of his fans know this sound as a new genre called Tuku Music. Oliver Mtukudzi has released over 50 albums, including various international releases on different record labels.

Even though Oliver Mtukudzi has tried to stay away from direct political activism, he has promoted tolerance and has been a strong advocate for public health campaigns. The book dedicates a considerable section to the AIDs epidemic in Zimbabwe and how Mtukudzi wrote songs and toured promoting public health.

Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe includes substantial interviews with family, friends, and members of Oliver Mtukudzi’s band.

Oliver Mtukudzi is still an essential figure in Zimbabwean music and Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe describes the excited reactions of audiences outside Zimbabwe that include members of the Zimbabwean diaspora.

The author of the book is Jennifer W. Kyker, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Eastman School of Music and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester, New York.

Oliver Mtukudzi, Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe
Author: Jennifer W. Kyker
Series: African Expressive Cultures
ISBN: 978-0-253-02231-8

Buy Oliver Mtukudzi, Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe


His World is Your World

Various Artists – Sound of the World

Various Artists

Sound of the World (Wrasse Records WRASS 169, 2005)

BBC London DJ Charlie Gillett has, as they say, done it again. The latest in his annual series of world music compilations is two CDs worth of tracks that are each winners in their own right, each contributing to the fact that the whole thing is a collective winner.

Gillett has a knack for picking what’s likely to prick up the ears of newcomers to world music as well as having a good sense of what possibly jaded aficionados will want to hear. Thus we get a corking good mix of traditional music with progressive, unplugged with plugged and familiar artists (Oliver Mtukudzi, Mariza, Youssou N’Dour, Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate, Lhasa) with those who are likely less so (Laye Sow, Dead Combo, Ivan Kupala, The Chehade Brothers).

Listening to these discs not only clues one in on what’s happening musically in the 28 countries represented, but what they glean from each other. You’re just as likely to hear something that’s, say, recognizably Senegalese, Brazilian or Russian as you are to hear techno stirred into traditional and collaborators from different countries (or even different continents) mixing it up).

Years of spinning music on the radio has given Gillett a shrewd sense of pacing and contrast, so transitions between tracks and styles manage not to be too jarring and can heighten appreciation of previously heard material. I was not, for example, very impressed with the recent CD by Romania’s Gypsy/techno Shukar Collective, though hearing one song from it amid the twists and turns of a larger melting pot was decidedly more pleasant. But no matter how this compilation washes over you, rest assured that a globetrotting sonic adventure of the highest order awaits.

Buy Sound of the World.


Travel the World with Putumayo DVD

Travel the World with Putumayo


The first in a series of DVDs, Travel the World with Putumayo features music videos and concert performances by some of the label’s favorite artists filmed on location in India, Brazil, Senegal, Cuba and beyond. Known for creating collections of international artists for the past decade, Putumayo has uncovered videos and live performances which are sure to appeal to audiences of all ages.

With few broadcast outlets, most of these videos have never been viewed outside their country of origin. The video for Ricardo Lemvo’s Afro-Latin hit Mambo Yo Yo was filmed in Havana, Cuba and captures the city’s vibrant energy.

Czech gypsy singer Vera Bílá’s Pas O Panori video transports the viewer to a rustic Eastern European Gypsy village. Senegalese band Tukuleur’s Afrika features majestic shots of the West African landscape and scenes filmed on Goree Island, an infamous transfer point during the slave trade.

Egyptian singer Hisham Abbas’ Nari Nari features colorful Bollywood-style choreography, striking cinematography and was filmed in the shadow of the Taj Mahal in India. Bidinte, from war-torn Guinea-Bissau, offers a moving song about the impact of war on children and families.

Travel the World with Putumayo also features videos from Brazilian artists Chico César and Rita Ribeiro, Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe, Senegal’s Touré Kunda, Nigerian band Kotoja, Canadian Celtic singer Mary Jane Lamond and the French-Argentinian electronic tango ensemble Gotan Project. Ten of the twelve featured videos are of songs found on Putumayo albums.

As an added bonus, Travel the World with Putumayo includes Oliver Mtukudzi’s Hear Me Lord filmed live at a nightclub in Zimbabwe, and a powerful concert performance of Habib Koité’s Wassiyé filmed in Huy, Belgium.

Each music video and live performance is viewable with complete subtitles in English, Spanish, French or German, enabling viewers to better understand the songs and their meanings. Also included are insightful biographies of each artist and a short documentary about Putumayo World Music’s history.

Buy Travel the World with Putumayo.


2003 Kora All African Music Awards, Winners Announced

Oliver Mtukudzi


Sandton, South Africa – The list of winners of the KORA All African Music Awards was announced last night, Saturday, December 6th at the Sandton Convention Center in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa. African musicians from around the world were recognized for their artistic accomplishments. Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi received a lifetime achievement award.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Best Artist – West Africa – Male

Kojo Antwi – Nfa Me Nko Ho – Ghana

Best Artist – West Africa – Female

Suzanna – Nha Sonho sonho – Cape Verde

Best Artist – East Africa – Male

George Okudi – Wipolo – Uganda

Best Artist – East Africa – Female

Chamsia Sagaf – Loléya – Comores

Best Artist – Central Africa – Male

Douleur – Gloire aux femmes – Cameroon

Best Artist – Central Africa – Female

1 Mbilia Bel – Welcome Mbilia bel – R.D. Congo

2 Tshala Muana – Malu – R.D. Congo

Best Artist – Southern Africa – Male

Oliver Mtukudzi – Hear Me Lord – Zimbabwe

Best Artist – Southern Africa – Female

Busi Mhlongo – Umthwalo – South Africa

Best Artist Or Group Traditional

Machesa Traditional Group – Tshipidi – Botswana

Best African Group

1 Quartier Latin – Affaire D’ Etat — D.R. Congo

2 Anti-Palu – Deni – Ivory Coast

Best African Video

Jeff Maluleke – Mambo – South Africa

Best African Arrangement

Yvonne Chaka Chaka – Zibuyile Izinkomo – South

Best African Gospel Female Artist

Rebecca – Iyahamba Lenqola – South Africa

Best African Gospel Male Artist

Lundi – Lundi – South Africa

Best African Gospel Group

Notre Dame de la Salette – Tata Lekumu – Gabon

Most Promising African Female Artist

Barbara Kanam – Bibi Madeleine – D.R. Congo.

Most Promising African Male Artist

Jean-Paul Samputu – Ange Noir – Rwanda

Most Promising African Group

Macase – Ojem – Cameroon

Revelation Of The Year

Eben & Family – L’hymne – Gabon

Most Promising Artist of the African American Diaspora

Ludacris – Stand up – U.S.A.

Best Female Artist of the African American Diaspora

Angie Stone – Brotha – U.S.A.

Best Male Artist of the African American Diaspora

R Kelly – Step in the name of love – U.S.A.

Best Video of the African American Diaspora

R Kelly – Step in the name of love – U.S.A.

Life Time Achievement Award

Oliver Mtukudzi – Zimbabwe

Europe/ Caribbean Diaspora

Avalon – D.R. Congo – Sweden

Special Judge Award

Soumbil  and Notre Dame de la salette Ivory Coast and Gabon

Previous winners for the 2002 KORA Awards have included Hugh Masekela for Best African Musician, Alicia Keys for Best African American Diaspora Artist, and Koffi Olomide’ who won the KORA Award in several

The Kora Awards and EMI/CCP Records launched a 16 track Compilation CD earlier this year, which is a selection of the finest tracks performed by previous winners of the KORA.


The 2003 Kora All Africa Music Awards

Oliver Mtukudzi


Sandton, South Africa – The KORA All African Music Awards will be taking place on Saturday, December 6th at the Sandton Convention Center in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa.

African musicians from around the world will be recognized for their artistic accomplishments. Previous winners for the 2002 KORA Awards have included Hugh Masekela for Best African Musician, Alicia Keys for Best African American Diaspora Artist, and Koffi Olomide’ who won the KORA Award in several categories.

The Kora All Africa Music Awards and EMI/CCP Records launched a 16 track Compilation CD earlier this year, which is a selection of the finest tracks perfomed by previous winners of the KORA.

This Kora Album features artists such as Bayete, Mandoza, Brenda fassie, Ringo Madlingozi and Jeff maluleke from South Africa, Papa Wemba, Kofi olomide, Awilo Longomba and Makoma from D.R.C, Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe), Femi Kuti from Nigeria, Kojo Antwi from Ghana, Mensah Ayaovi from Togo, Jacky Rapon from Island
of Martinique, Angelique Kidjo from Benin, Kelly Price from the US.


Fear Not The Smooth

Various Artists – Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul
Various Artists

Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul (Heads Up HUCD 3077, 2003)

Yeah, I know. An album with “smooth” in the title fills your head with unspeakably horrible thoughts of lite jazz blandness or adult contemporary syrup that’s sure to induce nausea. But this is Africa we’re talking about, not middle America. Lo and behold, this is actually a very good selection of African jazz and pop artists ideal for fending off the very same mediocrity that “smooth” is often a code word for in the first place. Don’t get me(or the title) wrong- this is smooth stuff, but in the best sense of the word.

Concentrating on the southern part of the continent, the disc features big names like Ladysmith Black Mambazo (uncharacteristically singing with instrumental backing) and Oliver Mtukudzi pitching in with the kind of strong material that’s earned them international status. But just as good are the less immediately recognizable names (Allou April, Prince Kupi, Gloria Bosman) and even a couple of American artists (Andy Narell, Spyro Gyra) who’ve been embraced on the African scene.

It’s a well-balanced collection, positioning the Afro-jazz-pop work of Joe McBride and Jimmy Dludu alongside Mtukudzi’s swaying melancholy and a breezy electronic stomper by Shaluza Max.

Narell’s steel pan track reinforces the strong ties between Africa and the Caribbean, and though Spyro Gyra’s closing “Cape Town Love” does seem to be riding the coattails a bit, it’s a pleasant tune that keeps the mellow but unmistakably alive mood. A solid compilation well worth owning, Smooth Africa II overcomes its misleading title hands down. I missed out on the first Smooth Africa that this is apparently a sequel to, but if it’s anything like this it must be worthwhile too.

Buy Smooth Africa II


Indie Awards Finalists Announced

Whistesburg, USA – The Association for Independent Music (AFIM) has announced the finalists for the Indie Awards, the most important music awards for the independent record industry. In the contemporary world music category, the 5 contenders are:

Thomas Mapfumo

Nass Marrakech

Oliver Mtukudzi

Susana Seivane

Tom Landa & the Paperboys

In the traditional world music category, the finalists are:

Kayhan Kalhor & M.R. Shajarian

Irshad Khan

Selim Sesler

Savina Yannatou

Various Artists (Matouqin)

The winners will be announced at the indie Awards Show on May 5th at the Regal Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles during AFIM’s annual convention.