Zimbabwean pop singer Dr. Oliver Mtukudzi is dead. According to Bulawayo 24 News, Todii hit song singer passed away in Harare on Wednesday afternoon.
Writing his condolence message, former minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture David Coltart said, “Rest in peace Oliver Mtukudzi. If anyone ever made me proud to be Zimbabwean it was you. Thank you for making us happy for so long, especially during the darkest days.”
Zimbabwe’s government also quickly expressed its “heartfelt condolences” to Mtukudzi’s family. “Zimbabwe music is poorer without our music legend,” the information ministry tweeted.
Tuku as he was popularly known, was a singer-songwriter with over 60 albums to his name. He was one of Africa’s top musicians.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mtukudzi had “succumbed to a long battle with diabetes.”
With his distinctive husky voice, Tuku, avoided political controversy. The closest he came was with his 2001 song “Bvuma,” which in the Shona language means “accept that you are old” and was taken as a message to longtime leader Robert Mugabe to retire.
Paul Mangwana, a senior official with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, praised Mtukudzi for remaining “apolitical,” saying he supported calls for the singer to be buried at the national heroes’ acre, a shrine that is a preserve of ruling party elites.
Mtukudzi cut across the Political divide, singing at ruling party events but also performing at late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s wedding and funeral.
“We’ve lost an icon and my heartfelt condolences to Daisy and family.” Said Norton MP Temba Mliswa. “I’m writing to the President to apply for National Hero status for his national contribution to the music, arts and culture industry.”
One of Mtukudzi’s biggest hits was “Neria,” a mournful song about the tribulations of a woman who was thrown into poverty when her husband died because customary law did not allow her to inherit his property. It was the title song of a movie of the same name.
In 1980, Mtukudzi celebrated Zimbabwe’s independence by singing the country’s new national anthem, “Ishe Komborera Africa” (God Bless Africa) with a reggae inflection.