The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
WITH his memory still fresh in the minds of fans after his death in January, there has been an outcry in some quarters about how promoters and brands seek to make a quick dollar from the death of Oliver Mtukudzi, with events whose benefits do not seem to be trickling down to his loved ones.
Tuku’s death saw an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy from all over globe, with many recognising his unique abilities as a musician, abilities that saw him admired as much within Zimbabwe’s borders as he was outside the country.
However, among the genuine sympathy, some have used the passing of the legendary musician to further their own interests, with many tribute concerts or self-styled Tuku nights organised without the family’s consent.
Tuku’s family raised the alarm this week with a statement that effectively disowned the gigs that were being organised in his honour.
“We would like to distance ourselves from any events or gatherings that are being held in the name of the Mtukudzi family as we are still grieving. All events that have the endorsement of Tuku Music and the Mtukudzi Family will be posted on the official Tuku Music social media pages, the first such official event being the Cape Town jazz Festival that Dr Mtukudzi was meant to have performed at this year and the show will now be a celebration of his life in music by his backing band the Black Spirits,” the statement read.
One of the events that the family might have been alluding to was a memorial concert organised by legendary South African musician, Steve Dyer who put together the gig apparently so that those that had not been at his funeral could mourn the star.
“Oliver was loved in SA. He crossed borders in terms of his appeal and many South Africans feel he is one of us. So we formed a committee to plan this memorial and they asked me to be the managing director. We wanted to give people who weren’t able to attend the funeral an opportunity to honour their legend,” Dyer said.
While on the surface there seemed to be nothing sinister about the gig, with Tuku’s daughter Selmor in attendance, the family’s statement has thrown the cat among the pigeons as it suggested that they had no knowledge of the event.
While Selmor is the most prominent of Tuku’s children, some will question whether his daughter from his first marriage, who is also not the oldest of his children, has authority to speak or organise anything on behalf of the family. Indeed there was no word from organisers about how the event held in Mtukudzi’s name would benefit his family.
Meanwhile, Birchwood Hotel in South Africa is set to hold a similar tribute concert on 8 March, with support from some media. On that occasion Ringo Madlingozi will be the main act, with guests expected to fork out R450 for a package that includes a three-course dinner and two bottles of wine. Couples are expected to spend as much as R2 200 for a package that includes bread and breakfast should they choose to stay overnight at the hotel.
In Canada, Tuku’s former band mates also held their own tribute in Edmonton. Tatenda Viya, Munya Mataruse, Alice Murangayi Utah and Enock Piroro said they wanted, as former member of Tuku’s Black Spirits, to give fans the next best thing to a Tuku concert now that.
In the United Kingdom, another tribute was organised on 15 February at the Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle. The event was billed as a celebration of both Valentine’s Day and a tribute to the recently departed musician. Tickets for the event went for 20 Pounds while those that wanted to showcase their products had to book a table for 15 Pounds. Tuku’s family had neither been informed of the event nor were they promised any proceeds that came from it.
The argument from those organising the events is that Tuku is a global star that does not belong to anyone including perhaps his family.
“This was a commemorative event that gathered a community in mourning to celebrate a life of a legend at no profit to anyone other than contribution to the food they shared together while listening to this creative artiste and a role model to many. This was the same as hosting a house party like many did but we felt to take a better step of using a public venue that attracted food costs and as fans, we never stopped dancing and we feel comforted,” said one of the organisers of the event Shamiso Machaya.
However, some have questioned whether the behaviour of event organisers can be excused when it is clear that Tuku’s family has not earned a single cent from events organised in the name of a man who they are still mourning.
Tuku was declared a National Hero, becoming the first artiste to get such recognition from the Government. He was however, buried at his rural home upon the family’s request.