To be an artist is more than just pure talent, skillful abilities and inspiration. To be considered a great artist is a much more bigger task in a journey only for iconic legends.
Sir Oliver Mtukudzi would, without doubt, be the best ultimate example of an iconic legend from the numerous talents that have graced the Zimbabwean arts scape. VaSamanyanga Mtukudzi’s art penetrated numerous nations and sectors whilst reaching millions of people, from politicians, academics, fellow artists and music lovers of different ages.
Like his colleagues and contemporaries, Dr Mtukudzi touched on the plight of the segregated black majority facing political subjugation in pre-independence Zimbabwe. He went a step further by promoting peace and took the role of the proponent for women and children.
UNICEF recognized VaSamanyanga’s contribution and bestowed him with the status of the organization’s Southern African region goodwill ambassador. This was preceded by the 2010 University of Zimbabwe and The International Council of Africana Womanism Award for his role in using music to uplift women and woman rights and issues.
Some of the notable songs that speak for women include “Tozeza Baba” which was and has constantly been the theme song for campaigns to stop abuse and segregation against women. VaMtukudzi in the song emphasized on the fear and sadness that grips children who often witnessed the brutality waged on their mothers by the father.
He also lashes out at alcoholism as the dominant factor aiding this abuse which has perhaps been the pertinent factor of violence in most marriages. The woman bears the brunt and risk of death solely for the purposes of not abandoning their children as mentioned in the lyrics.
Another form of woman abuse Sir Oliver Mtukudzi castigated was the ill-treatment and the remotion of power from women upon the loss of their husbands. This is the issue in “Neria” and interacts with the audience of “Neria” the 1993 film which Sir Mtukudzi featured in. Women have in the past faced abuses and have been reduced to destitute statuses as soon as their husbands are gone. The song “Nhaka” accompanies this castigation as it criticizes how a tradition of inheritance has been assumed by those that do not care about the welfare of the deceased man’s family but are after sexual gratification off the widow who has remained. This is the burden of Neria in the hands of Phineas in “Neria”
The concern for women in VaSamanyanga’s music is also evident in “Perekedza Mwanasikana” were the superstar placed himself in the role of the mother beamoning her daughters whereabouts after sunset. Such is the concerns of parents mostly mothers, but the song corresponds with Albert Nyathi’s poem “My Daughter”. The piece is dedicated to the persona’s daughter and encourages her to avoid being caught out late for fear of hyenas. Perhaps it is these hyenas which VaSamanyanga fears in “Perekedza Mwanasikana” as he also urges young men to be responsible and bring their girlfriends home in time. In a way, he is calling for the protection of women and urges responsibility in men.
Still on his quest to uplift women, Sir Mtukudzi revealed a romantic side in “Mbabvu Yangu” in which he is thankful to his love in being there for him. The superstar is inspiring in his song as he gives credit to how his wife has stayed with him, even during unemployment and has given him stature and dignity in society. He uses the metaphor of the rib to signify the love story of Eden and how his wife is his only woman. He shows gratitude and emphasizes on how his wife has given him fulfillment. This fulfillment interacts with the marriage of Patrick and Neria in “Neria”. This is most clear in Patrick’s words to Phineas when he says that without his wife Neria, he is nothing.
There is continuous dialogue in VaSamanyanga’s music in the theme of womanhood. He reinforces fulfillment and partnership in marriage through the song “Ndakuvara” where he takes on the role of a man and a father calling on for help from the mother of his children, his wife, to come and assist him. There is a skillful use of the metaphor of the calf which refers to perhaps a child. The idea could be a father has encountered a problem in giving the child direction and is calling on the mother to help. The song dismisses excessive patriarchal authority on decision making and advocates for opening up on partnership between a husband and his wife. Therefore VaSamanyanga is calling for equal partnership in marriage as a whole perhaps. This relates to Patrick’s words in “Neria” when he tells his brother that he is who he is because of Neria. He says that he is a product of his marriage to his partner.
The iconic legend Sir Oliver Mtukudzi went beyond pushing for the protection of women from violence, liberation from abuse and celebration for their love and support but also for recognition for their strength. His song. “Madam” brings forth the idea of ‘musha mukadzi’ as seen by how the woman is not a dependent but a partner or even the bread winner. The woman hardly communicates in English but is not deterred in securing a sale to the prospective madam to cater for her children food and school fees. Her sentences show perhaps she did not obtain much education but she is determined to make sure her children obtain it. The mother is almost similar to Ma’Shingayi in Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” who sells boiled eggs to bus passengers to raise funds for her son’s school fees. Sir Mtukudzi has given the audience the opportunity to also view women as providers too.
VaSamanyanga is more than a musician, but an artist of great repute whose work on women in particular resonates with the audience whilst also complementing works of other artists in film and literature.