Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi (22 September 1952 – 23 January 2019) was a Zimbabwean musician, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region. Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was considered to have been Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time. Mtukudzi grew up in Highfield, a ghetto neighbourhood in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare and began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo and fellow legendary guitarist James Chimombe. Their single Dzandimomotera went gold and Tuku’s first album followed, which was also a major success. Mtukudzi is also a contributor to Mahube, Southern Africa’s “supergroup”.
His tenure with the band was short-lived, however. By 1979, he had left to pursue a solo career. Taking several of the band’s musicians with him, he formed a new group, the Black Spirits. Their debut single, “Dzandimomotera,” sold enough copies to qualify for gold record status. As a solo artist, Mtukudzi had his first successes shortly after Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980. His debut solo album, Africa, included two hits: “Zimbabwe” and “Mazongonyedze.” Mtukudzi has consistently balanced his musical career with his passion for film and drama. In addition to appearing in several documentaries on Zimbabwean music, including the BBC-produced Under African Skies and The Soul of the Mbira, he starred in Jit, the first film featuring an all-Zimbabwean cast. He also played a prominent role in, as well as composed and arranged the soundtrack for, Zimbabwe’s second film, Neria.
Oliver Mtukudzi was 66 and ready to release his 67th album when he sadly passed on.