The Herald (Harare)

12 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mtukudzi Misses Sam

Photo: Facebook
Zimbabwean music legend, Oliver Mtukudzi.

In the run-up to his 60th birthday bash at the Glamis Stadium in August, superstar Oliver 'Tuku' Mtukudzi declared that he was not considering retiring soon. "I will die on the stage," he boldly declared, citing South African songbird Miriam Makeba, who died on November 10, 2008, soon after performing in a concert in Italy, as a role model.

And true to Tuku's assertion, there is no retirement age in music.

Former Beatle -- Paul McCartney -- is churning out hits at the age of 70, while Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are still going strong despite clocking 50 years in show business.

So there is no reason why Tuku should not be playing at the Sports Diner or on Tourism Night, 10, 15 or even 20 years from now

It is no secret that Tuku was grooming Sam (Mtukudzi) to take over the Black Spirits probably in preparation for retirement.

But fate decided otherwise.

The 22-year-old son of the legendary singer died in a car crash on March 15, 2010, after the white TATA pick-up truck he was driving crashed into a bridge on the Harare-Bulawayo highway, near Kuwadzana Extension.

Saxophone sensation Sam, who released his debut album "Rume Rimwe" in 2008, died on the spot along with his 24-year-old friend and sound engineer, Owen Chimhare.

The pair, who lived in Norton, were returning from the Harare International Airport where they expected to pick up Mtukudzi and his wife, Daisy. When they were already at the airport, Mtukudzi advised them of a change of his flight plans.

With no heir, Mtukudzi is a worried man. This comes out clearly in the track "Rongadondo", from his latest album "Sarawoga".

"Ndakaronga dondo, Ndakaronga dondo, Changamire, Ndaiti pandasvika mutserendende, ndagona.

"Ndaiti patasvika mutserendende apo ndakaronga dondo, Ndakaronga dondo changamire, ndakaronga dondo," an emotional Mtukudzi sings.

Tuku had done his best to prepare Sam for the cut-throat world of showbiz.

He enrolled him at Prince Edward High School, where although he was not very academically gifted, he distinguished himself as a member of the school's musical band.

Sam was not only a saxophonist but a good guitarist too like his father. He travelled all over the world with his father. His last show was at the Sports Diner in Harare on Saturday March 13, 2010.

For his practicals, Mtukudzi took on his local and foreign tours.

A good example was in 2004, when Samanyanga quietly ushered his son into the public spotlight on a breathtaking tour of the UK, possibly as a statement to his fans that he would not be around the stage for long.

As he took to the stage at Birmingham's Sanctuary nightclub, Mtukudzi introduced his fans to "the future", calling his son to join him on stage.

"Although his voice lacked the finesse of his father, the authority with which he played the guitar, and later the saxophone, was a window through which Oliver Mtukudzi's fans could look into the future," reported one online newspaper.

The duo sang "The Colour Is Black", one of Mtukudzi's most compelling songs in which he assumes the role of a father advising his son that whatever he does, no matter how educated or sophisticated he gets, he should always stay true to his roots.

Sam did not disappoint. He founded his own band, AY, whilst he was still a student at Prince Edward.

By the time of his untimely death, it had become very popular, getting contracts to play at some popular events including the annual Winter Jazz Festival.

To sum it all, the AY Band became a brand and household name on its own. Even after the death of their leader, the AY Band, with the help of Tuku, continued holding shows countrywide and most Zimbabweans saluted the youngsters for continuing were Sam had left off.

Such a scenario is very odd in Zimbabwe and the world over, that a band can continue surviving after the death of the leading band member.

Mtukudzi was convinced he would depart the world first. "Ndaiti kunotanga akatanga, kuchiteera vakatevera. Apa ndasara ndoga, ah baba we kani."

Zimbabwe's musical history is littered with many examples of bands that failed to survive after the death of the leader.

Typical examples include the Ocean City Band fronted by the late James Chimombe, Biggie Tembo's Bhundu Boys, Mkoma Ketai's Huchi Band, Pio Farai Macheka's Black Ites, Marshall Munhumumwe's Four Brothers, Biggie Tembo's Bhundu Boys, System Tazvida's Chazezesa Challengers Mr Bulk and the Bulk Spirits.

Chamunorwa Nebeta's Glare Express, Paul Matavire's Hit Machine, Kenneth Chigodora's Sweet Melodies and Thomas Makion's Maungwe Brothers are some of the bands that never lived beyond the deaths of their leaders.

Even Sam's AY Band quickly disintegrated after its founder's death, despite Mtukudzi's spirited attempts to keep it going.

Mtukudzi laments that he is now left alone. But that is only half true. There is Daisy, his wife of many years. But Daisy has no track record as a musician, apart from cameo appearances on her husband's videos, notably "Buy My Doilies" and "Todii", not to mention the musical "Masanga Bodo".

Then there are daughters Samantha, Sandra and Selmor. Of the three, only Selmor is into music, but then she is now technically a Manatsa, having married Tendai, son of another Zimbabwe music legend, Zexie Manatsa.

But that apart, Mtukudzi is fully aware that in a patriarchal society such as ours, the baton passes from father to son, and rarely from father to daughter.

No wonder Samanyanga is a worried man: "Saka ndodini matonga? Ndingaiteiko matonga, ndodiniko matonga kare?"

The album title, "Sarawoga", appears to be a subtle reference to Sam's unspoken final words to his father. "You are now alone".

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InFocus

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Zimbabwean music legend, Oliver Mtukudzi.

Oliver Mtukudzi's 22-year-old son, Sam Mtukudzi, died in a road accident on March 15, 2010 in Harare. Read more »