Zim’s Mtukudzi to perform at next Kigali Jazz Junction...but who is he?

­­ Oliver Mtukudzi is one of the biggest music icons on the continent. Net.

Come October 26, Zimbabwean music legend Oliver Mtukudzi will serenade his Rwandan fans with his unique Afro-jazz sounds at the monthly Kigali Jazz Junction.

It will be the 68-year-old’s first time performing in Rwanda.

The announcement was made last Friday, at the September edition of the Jazz Junction, that was headlined by local folk music icon Jean Claude Muyango and Nigerian songbird Waje.

It is not the norm that the next performer at the Jazz Junction is announced a month in advance, as was Mtukudzi.

This perhaps points to Mtukudzi’s caliber as one of the finest musicians that will be gracing the Kigali Jazz Junction stage.

In a career spanning over nearly five decades (Mtukudzi started recording in the 1970s), he has churned out hundreds of hits which he has sung to his audiences around the world, boasting over 60 studio albums and counting.

Referred to fondly as Tuku by fans, Mtukudzi has created a unique sound –Tuku Music that echoes the day-to-day life and struggles of the peoples in his native Zimbabwe, while also touching hearts through the messages of hope and healing enshrined in his songs. His music routinely tackles touchy subjects such as AIDS, women’s rights, and poverty.

Known for the perceptive social commentary in his lyrics, Mtukudzi delivers his music in a simple and easy way, yet without compromising the complexity of emotions therein.

A self taught musician, Mtukudzi’s musical journey begun as a youngster, when he bought himself a guitar book from which he taught himself how to tune a guitar and how to play three chords.

Over the years, he has gained worldwide recognition and praise for his spirited and unique musical approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in his native Zimbabwe and beyond.

Across the continent and all over the world, he has been recognized for his commitment to awareness and prevention work.

It is no co-incidence that Todii, his most recognisable song to date also deals with the subject of HIV/AIDS.  Other songs that explore the same subject include ‘Akoromoka Awa’, ‘Ndakuyambira’, and ‘Mabasa’.

Through his voice and his image, he has played an ambassadorial role in prevention and awareness campaigns, working with his own government and an array of international humanitarian organizations in public health campaigns in Zimbabwe, on the continent and beyond.

For a man of his standing, many find Mtukudzi’s humility and humanitarian spirit hard to reconcile with his status of a living musical legend.

“As musicians we are already business people. And the key to having a good business is to have a good product –something that touches people. But despite that, I don’t believe that musicians are about getting paid. We get appreciated,” he is quoted in a past interview with a Zimbabwean online publication.

His humility is hard to reconcile with his status as one of Africa’s living musical legends.

Mtukudzi is also famously nonpolitical in his music, a subject of which he had this to say: “When you make political statements, you become a politician. And whenever you say something political, you alienate those who disagree with you. A political statement will divide people. We speak to every person. We try to heal their hearts.”

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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