By Problem Masau and Kate Bartlett, DPA/Harare
Oliver Mtukudzi, arguably Zimbabwe’s most beloved musician, died yesterday at the age of 66, his manager said.
“He died this afternoon at a private hospital...The funeral arrangements will be announced in due course,” Mutukudzi’s manager, Walter Wanyanya, told DPA.
The cause of Mutukudzi’s death has not yet been undisclosed.
Alick Macheso, a close friend of Mutukudzi’s, told DPA the musician’s death was a massive loss for Zimbabwe and the music industry.
“I was at his bedside yesterday. We discussed a lot of things, including the projects we had lined up this year. I didn’t know that it was our last time together,” said Macheso.
Mtukudzi, a prolific musician whose career spanned more than 30 years, sang in three of his country’s languages — Shona, Ndebele and English — and was known for his social and political lyrics.
Nicknamed “Tuku,” Mtukudzi produced music that featured traditional Shona instruments such as mbira and marimba.
It is part of a genre dubbed “Chimurenga,” after the Shona term for the liberation war against the white minority government in the 1970s.
After Zimbabwe won independence in 1980, Mtukudzi turned his focus from the struggle for black rights to the everyday struggles of ordinary Zimbabweans.
In his later years, Mtukudzi became involved in charity work, collaborating with United Nations children’s fund Unicef on issues including HIV prevention and child marriage.
Mtukudzi has said of his position as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador: “My role as a musician is to raise awareness and motivate wider responses to the social and economic problems that continue to deprive children of a good development.”
“I am glad I can play my part in speaking on HIV prevention, against abuse, molestation, stigma and to make our continent a better place for our children,” he said.
In an interview in 2013 with website New Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi said: “I think as long as there are people, there is always something to talk about.
And if there’s something to talk about, there’s something to sing about.”
“The purpose of song is to give life and hope to the people, to heal the broken heart, to entertain, to educate,” said the musician who has released dozens of albums.
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