Oliver Mtukudzi's legacy Under Threat

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Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s former publicist and veteran journalist Shepherd Mutamba recently launched a much awaited tell-all book Tuku Backstage at the Book Café in Harare.

The book according to Chronicle has been the subject of much speculation and anticipation, as Zimbabweans from all walks of life finally hope to peel the layers off the mystery that is Oliver Mtukudzi.

The lives of celebrities, since time immemorial, have always interested ordinary people and Zimbabweans are no different.

While some might argue that fans of celebrities, in their eagerness to find out what makes the famous tick, end up invading their privacy and consequently making their lives a living hell, it is important to note it is not talent alone that drives people to superstardom.

For one to win the hearts, and in Tuku’s case ears, one has to have the magnetic quality that separates the ordinary from the genuine stars whose every word fans hang on too.

So while some in the limelight might moan on how fame has ruined their lives, as it has in some cases, it is also important to note that it is what made them what they are today.

Celebrity status is indeed a gift and a curse as the fans that pack shows and put food on artistes’ table are the same that bay for more than just the tunes that they dish out during shows.

Fans have long wished to be the proverbial fly on the wall in the homes of celebrities, especially Zimbabwean celebrities who mostly keep their private lives off-limits. While the paparazzi culture in Hollywood and UK usually yields tit-bits about the private lives of the rich and the famous the same cannot be said of Zimbabwe and other African countries where in most cases the sanctity of an individual’s privacy, no matter how famous, is usually respected.

Mutamba however, managed to gain unparalleled access to the life and career of Zimbabwe’s biggest music superstar. He is the fly on the wall that Tuku, paid and confided in without fear of reprisal.

The question that most will have in their minds is what effect the latest revelations on Tuku’s life will have on his legacy.

The book covers a wide range of issues such as Tuku’s personal family life that had never been in the public domain.

It also speaks about how he allegedly cheated on his wife, how he ill-treated his children as well as the abuse of his workers who were not paid on time.

The chapter titled Daughters, whose contents were initially released last year, reveals how the relationship between Tuku and his daughters, Selmor and Sandra, from his first marriage to Melody Murape, had collapsed irretrievably after Selmor made sensational accusations in the media, in 2012, that the superstar was a neglectful father. She said if Tuku was supportive, she would have done better in her life.

Such allegations as those made in the book shatter the image that many had constructed about Tuku. As one of Zimbabwe’s foremost songwriters, Tuku has crooned about the hardships that families, women and children face on a day-to-day basis. Like all great artistes, his music has been more than just a feast for the ears, as fans derive soothing inspiration from the topics that he tackled in excellent melody.

Will lyrics in songs like Tozeza Baba and Neria assume a different meaning to fans when they discover what kind of man he was himself behind the scenes? Does the behaviour and character traits of artistes change the way that lovers of their work view them when their deeds come to light?

These are some of the questions that will be answered in future as people begin to digest Tuku’s alleged bad behaviour, as Mutamba writes.

In the midst of all this controversy some might argue that it is important that his personal life and music be separated. Artistes are, after all, fallible human beings too that are prone to mistakes like anyone else. Should Tuku be held to a higher moral standard because he makes music that is aimed at healing those that find themselves confronted with the harsh realities of life?

Reactions so far have been mixed towards the book, with some feeling that although details of Tuku’s life make for exciting reading, Mutamba has betrayed the veteran’s artiste’s trust by publishing information that was not meant for public consumption. Others feel that the book shatters the myth of Mtukudzi as a music deity that was above reproach both on and off stage.

Mtukudzi on his part has reacted with outrage to the book.

In an interview with South Africa’s Drum Magazine last week, the musician said he felt he had been personally attacked by the author of the book.

“I felt betrayed by a man I had trusted so much and brought into my inner circle.”

With a catalogue of hits that span decades, Tuku’s legacy as a musician was cemented years ago. It seems that now, with the latest revelations contained in the tell-all book, Tuku the man not the musician, is the one under question.