Written by Pelagia Nyamayaro
Sadly, the legendary music icon Oliver Mtukudzi has passed on.
After a protracted struggle with his health for over a month, he tragically lost the fight at the age of 66.
During this solemn period, many are asking themselves- how will we rally as a nation?
In times of upheaval throughout Zimbabwe’s tumultuous history- the good the bad and the ugly we have always had music to see us through.
In the fight for liberation we had music, in the years of reconciliation and nation building we had music, in our most testing socio-economic and politically turbulent period, we had music. When everything came crashing down, we had music.
Unquestionably, Oliver Mtukudzi’s music was a rallying point, a symbol of resistance, resilience and hope. On the sombre afternoon of Wednesday 23 January 2019, the world learnt that his light shone no more, and life became a little more bleak.
Admittedly, Oliver Mtukudzi was not the only legendary music icons Zimbabwe produced, but he was arguably a supernova among the greats. With a career that spanned over four decades he not only enjoyed remarkable crossover appeal with an international reach but also inspired multiple generations of artistes. His music translated beyond language,age, race and gender- so much so that his accomplishments included being a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the Southern African Region, a human rights activist and philanthropist. His efforts brought Zimbabwe to the foreground of discussion on the world stage at various critical points and ultimately immortalised him as the cultural icon he will forever remain. As an artist who sung in Shona, Ndebele and English as well as collaborate with African and other International artists, he helped in continuing to shape what the African identity was and meant in a globalised world. He contributed to upholding the pride and dignity of so many in the face of dehumanising conditions. He was a rallying point for almost every facet of society. So, what now?
Mtukudzi may no longer be with us, but his music and spirit will forever be in our hearts and minds. There are many lessons from his life- good and bad- that we can take away. This is by no means is an exercise or attempt in deifying what is ultimately a human of flesh and blood but merely a call to utilise the lessons that are useful in forging a brighter and better future for all. There is no one any group of people that can agree he was faultless, however this is our opportunity to open a dialogue on Mtukudzi’s life and music, in particular the and Zimbabwean arts and how this has influenced ordinary people. Music and hope did not die with Oliver Mtukudzi, for we all have a song in our hearts and minds that can be sung and heard. While it is helpful to look to the past for guidance, we can now also bring the past to the present to forge the future. Mtukudzi’s music is iconic and classic, but his greatest- unsung- contribution may have been his nurturing of new talent. His music will forever be a vital point of reference and a safe space for resistance, resilience and hope.
As the liberation fighters have chanted in the bush fields of the then Rhodesia “ Pamberi !”, so must we continue the fight for our dreams and futures. We are the new rallying point for that nation and the world. In the big and small ways that we stand up for what we believe in, even if we do not know it, we are the rallying point for someone else- the small light of hope in their lives. Oliver Mtukudzi’s light may have flickered its last ember, but with its last spark like a supernova it has reached our hearts in whatever corner of the world we are in. The onus is now on all of us to be each other’s light and rallying point. Pamberi !