HARARE – Working for Oliver Mtrukudzi sometimes felt like national duty, according to his former guitarist Clive Mono Mukundu.
Mukundu was at the Avenues Clinic in Harare on Wednesday where Mtukudzi breathed his last. He had a heart ailment, the celebrated guitarist disclosed.
“Working under the legend felt like playing for the national team. He was the best boss I ever worked for,” said Mukundu, who travelled the world with Mtukudzi between 2003 and 2007.
Over the last year, however, Mukundu says Mtukudzi has had a very private battle with a heart problem, which finally claimed his life.
“He has rested. He had been in and out of the hospital since last year when he developed a heart problem,” Mukundu told CNN.
Mukundu was one of a host of world musicians and entertainers paying tribute to Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe’s most travelled and most successful artist.
“Till we meet again my brother, Rest in Peace,” legendary South African songstress Yvonne Chaka-Chaka said on Twitter.
The South African drama series Isidingo won plaudits from fans after slotting Mtukudzi’s death into Wednesday’s episode.
Popularly known as “Tuku” by his fans, Mtukudzi had been successfully performing for decades throughout Africa, as well as in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
Born into a musical family in 1952, his foot-stomping music has been described as a mixture of Zimbabwean pop style “jit” and South African township pop.
Through his distinct sound and inspiring lyrics, he documented the joy and pain of his countrymen who fought for freedom under colonial rule and died for democracy after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
“Where I come from you don’t get to sing a song if you have nothing to say,” he said in a 2013 interview with CNN.
Mtukudzii grew up in Highfield, a ghetto neighbourhood in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. “So, every song has something to do with that man in the street, he must be able to use it in his life,” he said.
The musician had more than 60 albums under his belt and released an album in 2013 titled “Sarawoga, a tribute to his beloved son Sam, who died in a car crash in 2010 at age 21. The pair often performed together and he described the album as “therapy” to help him get over the death.
“I was just thinking of him and trying to recover, even though music was my therapy. I think I’ve performed more shows since 2010 up to today than ever before because that’s the only therapy I’ve got.”
Often called the spiritual father of Zimbabwe, Mtukudzi, who lost his brother Robert and several band members to AIDS, campaigned to eradicate the HIV/AIDS stigma to mothers in Tanzania.
He was also outspoken against patriarchy and criticised polygamy as a practice that increases the risk of spreading HIV.