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Music icon Oliver Mtukudzi dies after a long illness

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Charles Molele

The internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean music legend Oliver Mtukudzi died on Wednesday morning at Harare’s Avenues Clinic following a long illness.

Mtukudzi’s death was confirmed by Joy of Jazz founder and music promoter, Peter Tladi, in an interview with the SABC on Wednesday afternoon.

The 66-year-old music icon and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, whose music career took him to more than five continents, has been battling illness for the past few months and was hospitalized in December after falling ill.

Mtukudzi’s career spans decades, having started in 1975 when he released his debut single Dzandimomotera.

The single and it was so popular that it stayed in the then Rhodesian charts for 38 weeks, 11 of them as number one. He followed up Dzandimomotera with the percussive hit single Mutavara (1977), now included on the album Shanda, but originally on the album Ndipeiwo Zano (1978).

As a solo artist, Mtukudzi had his first successes shortly after Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980.

After 1980, he released some ground-breaking albums including Tuku Music (1999),  Paivepo (2000), Neria (2001), Bvuma (2001), Vhunze Moto (2002), Shanda (2003), Tsivo (2004) and Nhava (2005), Wonai (2006), Tsimba Itsoka (2007) and Dairai (2008).

Mtukudzi has contributed immensely to the nurturing of Zimbabwean music talents and holds various prestigious positions, among them the Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Children’s Fund and the coveted Cavaliere of the Order of Merit bestowed on him by the Italian government.

Mtukudzi was very popular with South Africans and often shared the stage with the late Hugh Masekela at the annual Joy of Jazz in Sandton.

In 2016, he was denied an honorary degree by the University of Zimbabwe because his hit song, Bvuma Wasakara, was deemed to be against the former Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe.

The song, which implored an old man to accept that age had caught up with him, was interpreted to be a revolutionary act against the tyranny of Mugabe who led Zimbabwe for 28 years.

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