Oliver Mtukudzi during a tribute ceremony for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at the State Theatre last year. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - “People want to be better than the next person, which is not possible, but instead, we should complement one another. That is the reason why we were put on this earth, to complement and not compete.”

Those were the salient words of the legendary Zimbabwean musician Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi - words that encapsulate his legacy of a united Africa through music which transcended borders and language barriers.

Mtukudzi died at the age of 66 at Harare’s Avenues Clinic on Wednesday after succumbing to his battle with diabetes.

This as the continent mourns another of its finest artists exactly a year after Tuku’s jazz contemporary, Hugh Masekela, passed away in South Africa.

World-renowned for fusing his acoustic guitar with his distinctive raspy voice to deliver songs that mostly spoke of love and hope, Mtukudzi was also a hit on the movie screens and provided the soundtrack Neria to the film of the same name.

Released in 1992 and written by acclaimed author Tsitsi Dangarembga, Neria was a heart-warming film about a widow who had to fight off her in-laws and protect her children following the death of her husband.

According to The Zimbabwean and The Washington Post, Neria is the highest-grossing Zimbabwean film of all time.

Mtukudzi’s title song - using only his guitar with the powerful lyrics: “Don’t feel disheartened Neria, the lord is with you," was a key component about the rising women empowerment movements across African countries.

Zimbabwe’s former culture minister David Coltart was among the first to pay tribute.

“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,” Coltart said.

Tributes also poured in from South African musicians, including Thandiswa Mazwai and dance group Mi Casa, who lauded Tuku’s influence on them.

These sentiments were echoed by Zimbabwe Exiles Forum executive director, Gabriel Shumba, who said: “Mtukudzi’s music would transcend across borders, hence collaborating with the likes of Hugh Masekela and many others.”

And collaboration will be Mtukudzi’s lingering legacy. In his words: “That is the reason why we were put on this earth, to complement and not compete.” - Additional reporting by CAJ News

The Star