'Diabetes' claims life of Zimbabwean music icon Oliver Mtukudzi

24 January 2019 - 08:47
By Emmanuel Tjiya and Patience Bambalele
Oliver Mtukudzi on stage at the   Joy of Jazz festival.
Image: Veli Nhlapo Oliver Mtukudzi on stage at the Joy of Jazz festival.

Legendary Zimbabwean musician Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi has died aged 66, exactly a year since the death of his close friend Hugh Masekela.

Mtukudzi's record label Gallo Record Company confirmed his death yesterday but could not confirm the cause.

However, reports in Zimbabwe said Mtukudzi died yesterday afternoon at Harare's Avenues Clinic.

Zimbabwe's state daily The Herald said the renowned musician succumbed to a long battle with diabetes.

According to sources, Mtukudzi has been in and out of hospital since December.

Head of marketing at Gallo Record, Carol Morabe, said yesterday: "We are not ready to give an official statement as we would like to give the family to do so before us. We just want to respect the family and give them a chance to select a family spokesperson."

Musician and Mtukudzi's friend Yvonne Chaka Chaka said she was shattered. "For him to go on the same day as Hugh Masekela... it's just so sad and unbelievable."

She recalled their last encounter at the first annual Jacaranda Music Festival in Harare last September.

Oliver Mtukudzi, left, died yesterday in his home country of Zimbabwe, exactly a year since his close friend  Hugh Masekela's death.
Image: Veli Nhlapo Oliver Mtukudzi, left, died yesterday in his home country of Zimbabwe, exactly a year since his close friend Hugh Masekela's death.

They head-lined alongside Berita and Mi Casa. They were planning on returning to the festival this year. "When he booked me, he begged me to come and I was very sceptical because of the things you hear about that country. But he told me to come because Zimbabweans were peace-loving people who loved fun," she said.

"When we got there it was so packed... I think it was more than 10,000 people. It was so beautiful. He was fine and on stage for like two hours. I have never heard him raise his voice. He was such a good man. Whether he was performing in London or Ethiopia, he was the same off and on stage."

Overcome by emotion, Ringo Madlingozi said: "I cannot comment until I can speak to his family.

"I have been trying to locate his daughter. All I can say is that he was a good friend."

SA Music Promoters Association (Sampra) chairperson China Mpololo said: "He was one of those few legends who came to this country and made a huge musical impact. I have worked with him many times.

"I saw him recently performing at Macufe, he had the same drive and energy. He is a legend that needs to be celebrated. On behalf of Sampra and the SA Music Industry Council, we wish to send our condolences to the family."

Ladysmith Black Mambazo manager Xolani Majozi said Mtukudzi's death had saddened them.

"On Tuesday, we spoke to his manager Walter [Wanyanya] about the working plans we have. I am shocked that today [yesterday] he passed on. Mtukudzi was part of Black Mambazo."

Mtukudzi has been working closely with Mambazo since 1980.

He is survived by his wife Daisy and children.