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Have you ever performed for nothing but grass? Words from Tuku to me.

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January hasn’t been an easy month for Zimbabweans. From riots, violence to internet shutdown and then the darkest cloud of all, Tuku’s death. A nation united in tears is how best I can describe the vibes I get from fellow brethren. A nation united in pain. No one can claim to have loved Tuku more than the next. And to cap it all, Africa loved Tuku more than the world. Last week I was in South Africa on a business trip and from Uber rides to taxis and my Air BnB and old bulky TV, all I heard was Tuku songs and tributes. Africa stood still on the 23rd of January 2019. A dark cloud froze the light and doves took away the spirit of our legend to a heavenly place that only heroes reside.

I think I only met Dr Oliver Mtukudzi in person about 3 times. I’m not counting the scores of live shows I went to with my crew. Each time was epic and I think because I worshiped him as an artist I always froze around him and rarely uttered a word except to ask for an autograph. There’s that funny story my dad likes to tell my friends of my Tuku autographed white t-shirt that our maid washed thinking that the ‘ink’ on the front was a ‘scribble stain’ that needed attending too. I can’t ever forgive her coz I don’t have anything to show for the time I gatecrashed backstage at 21 just so I could get an autograph.

Fast-forward to 1 April 2016 and Mellow Creme is launching his debut album Mellow Madness at Alliance Francaise Harare. The band was doing sound check four hours before the show for good measure. I shared the same sound engineer with Tuku and the legend passed through to collect something from Vusi. He heard us play and decided to stay an extra minute. My little sister Fadzoh who plays mbira in my band asked for a photo with us and Tuku. Being the humble man he was he gladly agreed. He said his goodbyes and as he walked away I finally got the guts to speak to him. I asked to walk him to his car and he agreed.

‘Baba, what advice would you give me so that I become a legend and pop icon like you coz that’s all I’ve ever wanted?’ He chuckled, stopped in his step then put his hand on my shoulder. ‘Mwanangu (my child)’ this journey is not for the weak and impatient. Wati wamboimbira huswa here? Wakambotambira huswa here’ (Have you ever sung for the grass? Have you ever danced for the grass?). I couldn’t help but laugh and ask him to elaborate. He went on to tell me of a time when he had just started getting hits on radio and fame in the press. He was booked at a popular night spot. Him and his band went through intensive rehearsals for about 2 weeks in preparation for the big night. The night came and no fans showed up except for a drunk man who knocked the F out near the stage and hugged a flower pot all night. That didn’t stop him and his band. They performed like they were in front of 10 000 people. ‘So if no one comes for your album launch just start on time and perform like you are performing for 10 000 people and your career depends on it.’

Wise words from an icon, a custodian of our culture and my hero. Words I will forever cherish in my heart coz in my heart Tuku lives forever. That’s the pedigree he had and that’s the DNA of a true superstar. Africa will always love you Tuku and may your Soul rest in eternal peace Samanyanga.

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