With a career spanning more than four decades and 66 music albums under his belt, African music legend Oliver Mtukudzi is still growing strong like wine. In his recent visit in the country, the 65-year-old sat down with Arts & Culture Correspondent DUMISANI NCUBE as he spoke about longevity in the music industry, which he does not see as a profession but a part of his life
“It’s got everything to do with God, he has been leading. Also I am not a professional musician, its not a career to me I am being myself, I am doing myself. I can’t run away from myself so if it were my career I would be telling you how it is like to survive as a professional musician for such a long time. Above all life is not an easy road it is full of challenges,” the 65-year-old Mtukudzi explained how he has managed to stay strong within the music industry for so many years.
He stated that as individuals people should identify themselves and become who they are, as he identified himself within the music circles. He urged parents to allow their children to identify themselves than for parents to decide their destiny.
With many from his generation having decided to find jobs such as teaching, carpentry and nursing, he chose to be a musician despite his parents’ refusal, who had also tried out a hand in music. “They tried to stop me but they ended seeing that this is who I am and they couldn’t change me”. Having created a mark internationally prior to the digital era, which has helped many to market their musical careers, he believes that the best way musicians can market themselves to the world is through well presented performances that will leave people talking. “As an artist you should be at your best all the time when you perform to your audience. You never know who is within the audience. It might be someone from Zambia or USA who will go back to his or her country of origin and tell people about you. I have always been at my best, take it as an opportunity.”
Over the years he has crafted a sound that has been dubbed as ‘Tuku’ music by his fans due to its signature sound and appealed to people from different nationalities despite the language and cultural differences. “No culture is superior to another when I make music, so I make it for my listener to feel not to listen and this is
“I was lucky I grew up around relatives and people that abused drugs and alcohol. Never done them before with fear that I won’t know how I will behave after taking such substances. I also had parents that taught me life lessons to take care of myself,” he said as he urged young artists to take advice from their parents time and again stating that it is a wise practice to stay alive and safe.
He urged upcoming artists to be wary of people approaching them wanting to upgrade their careers through marketing deals and similar activities, encouraging them to be more self-reliant despite the hardships they come across in life. He spoke of how he has encountered the same challenges with people over the years.
With his knowledge Mtukudzi has established an arts academy dubbed Pakare Paye Arts Centre where he works closely with young artists.
He has worked with a number of legendary artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Steve Dyer and Hugh Masekela and a number of young artists such as Berita and Winky D.
This left many more young artists yearning to have the legend work with them but says they are not aware of the procedures, “the procedure of collaborating is not only based on the artist but on the purpose of the song”.
When quizzed if he ever listens to his music he stated that he does not because he uses that time to listen to other musicians. He also said if he stumbles upon his music playing on radio he starts thinking of how he could have improved it while composing. “I don’t have a favourite artist I listen to good music. Other artists have what I do not have”.