- Category: PA 2006
Oliver Mtukudzi was born in 1952, in Highfield, near Harare where he was educated and began singing in choirs. ‘Tuku’ has gone on to a prolific recording career spanning 48 albums over nearly thirty years.
He wrote and recorded his first songs in his teens but only achieved commercial success in 1977 with Dzandimomotera when he joined the group, the Wagon Wheels. Soon afterwards he formed his own group The Black Spirits and began to record an average of 1 to 2 albums a year. Now one of Zimbabwe’s top selling musical acts he is a sought-after performer on stages around the world. Most of his lyrics focus on the social and economic issues that govern people's lives and, with an infectious sense of humour and optimism, his appeal extends to young and old alike. He works in a mixture of Shona, Ndebele and English and has developed a style so distinctive it is called ‘Tuku Music’.
The release of Bvuma/Tolerance in 2000 with its lead track Bvuma meaning “admit it or accept it” and later changed to Wasakara which means “you are worn out,” has largely been interpreted to be a call to Robert Mugabe to step down from his presidency. Banning Eyre, however, in Playing with Fire: Fear and Self-Censorship in Zimbabwean Music (Freemuse, 2001), reports that Oliver says its just a song about getting old “all of us get old. So what is the problem?”
Oliver also ventured into film, starring in JIT(1990) and Neria (1991), for which he also wrote and arranged the soundtrack. Neria won him the M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992. A documentary about Oliver’s life, Shanda, was released in 2002 along with an album of the same name. He also wrote and directed the live musical production Was my Child, on the plight of Zimbabwe's street children.
Ndakuvara won the 2002 Kora Award for Best African Arrangement. In the 2003 Kora Awards, Oliver won the Best Male Artist: Southern Africa Award and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ever-humble despite world acclaim, Oliver Mtukudzi is undoubtedly one of the great voices of African music.