By Farayi Mungoshi
“STORIES were there before we were born. Stories were there when we were there and stories are still going to be there when we are long gone.
Stories have been listened to by those who listen and listen for benefit. Stories have also passed through the ears of those who don’t listen but regret what they lost in a story that was told.”
SO goes the beginning of the foreword by sekuru Oliver Mtukudzi in Dr Charles Mungoshi’s last novel, Branching Streams Flow in the Dark.
I was hesitant when my mother, Jesesi Mungoshi, suggested we give Dr Mtukudzi the novel to read and write the foreword.
Where would he get the time, between travelling to the many parts of the country, Africa and beyond and the many boards he sat on.
Pakare Paye and the youngsters he mentored demanded his time.
The man was just way too busy; where would he get time to read a book.
I was to be proven wrong.
Just a phone call to sekuru Oliver and I was on the next kombi to drop off Branching Streams Flow in the Dark manuscript at Pakare Paye.
He was not there when I arrived; he’d gone to sort out some business before departing for the UK that weekend.
He’d promised to read the manuscript on the plane and would be done by the time he returned in a fortnight.
True to his word, within two weeks the man was done – something I didn’t expect.
As I sat at my desk later, inserting the piece, I say piece because it read and flowed like a piece of poetry, like a song even, I realised there was more to this man.
He had a special relationship with the people; he practiced ubuntu regardless of his tight schedule; he remained humble even with those ‘wasting’ the little time he had; he was an extremely busy man.
He carried with him a message of encouragement for the disheartened, another for the youth in need of advice and wisdom, hope for the hopeless.
He was determined to share that message not just through his own music for which he was popularly known, but through other various platforms like film and theatre.
I remember sometime back in the late 1990s attending an event I’d first thought was for writers only.
When I got to the venue, Mushandirapamwe Hotel, in Highfield, I realised that this was a Mtukudzi show and he had collaborated with the writers Mungoshi, Shimmer Chinodya, Chenjerai Hove, Chirikure Chirikure and Musaemura Zimunya for a performance.
This was his way of promoting the reading culture.
He did the song Kanyanisa with Chirikure Chirikure.
I recall smiling then but today I find myself smiling even more. Mungoshi performed on stage alongside Tuku even though he was just a writer.
That is the sekuru Oliver I knew, an innovative man who saw much more than his music.
By interweaving his music with poetry, film and theatre, his music transcended boundaries.
His art impacted all members of society.
When he returned from the UK after the two-week sojourn, he had words of wisdom for me.
“Muzukuru basa iri harisi rekuti watanga nhasi mangwana wawana mari, it takes time for you to start reaping,” he said.
He recalled how, performing in 1978, in Gutu, a woman got healed of a spiritual ailment.
Decades later that woman (now based in Canada) bought him a car.
“It took more than 20 years,” he said.
It was not just in music he invested, but also in the lives and souls of individuals.
He ensured they were spiritually fed.
Tuku became sekuru Oliver because he played the role of Neria’s brother and my mother was Neria in the epic film that transformed lives.
Tuku was to many of us a mentor, advisor and storyteller. And as we continue to tell our stories, we will not forget the story of Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi.