Cape Town International Jazz Festival team mourns the passing of jazz legend Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) Festival Director Billy Domingo, and the management team are devastated to learn of the untimely passing today (23 January) of renowned Zimbabwean jazz legend, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, aged 66, in Harare, Zimbabwe, after battling an illness for the past month.

His death comes on the first anniversary of the death of his great friend and fellow musical icon, South Africa’s Hugh Masekela. This dynamic duo of African music giants wowed the crowds at the CTIJF, and Oliver also performed at the festival’s Hugh Masekela tribute concert following his death last year. He was a hugely popular performer on the CTIJF stage, and enjoyed sold-out performances in the 2002 and 2008, besides featuring in many other performances at the festival over the years.

“The jazz world has lost another masterful and magical musician in Oliver, and we will all be the poorer for that,” said Domingo. “He was on the bill to perform this year in a collaboration with South African musician and songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Africa’s Grandest Gathering.

“We are deeply saddened by this news. His performance with Vusi would have been one of the highlights of this year’s festival, and his absence on our stage will be sorely felt. We send our heartfelt condolences to Oliver’s family and friends, and mourn his passing together with his thousands of global fans across the world.”

The upcoming festival will pay tribute to Oliver Mtukudzi with a commemorative tribute in his honour to fill his CTIJF 2019 line-up slot, including Vusi Mahlasela.


Born 22 September 1952 in Harare, Tuku (as he was affectionately and respectfully known by his many fans), the ‘soul-dripping voice of Zimbabwe’ as he has so aptly been described, had a career that spanned more than 40 years and produced an amazing body of work with no less than sixty original album releases (nearly all of them best-sellers)! Also to his credit are several collaborations and compilation releases.

It was his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe – continually playing to enthusiastic audiences in even the most remote parts of the country – and his socio-politically topical messages that earned him the massive place he holds in people’s hearts today. He was without question, the biggest Zimbabwean artist both in his home country and abroad. In the past years, his popularity had risen exponentially in the Southern African region, and indeed across the entire continent and the world at large. Together with his long-standing band, The Black Spirits, he regularly ventured across borders into Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. In the past few years, the group toured the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia and Europe extensively.

In fact, Tuku had been so innovative that his music is now widely referred to as ‘Tuku Music’ and is quite distinct from any other Zimbabwean styles. This is not to say that there are no recognisable influences in his work – the traditional forms of the mbira, the South African mbaqanga style, and the popular Zimbabwean music style called jiti, all affect it deeply – but these, like katekwe, the traditional drumming patterns of his clan, the Korekore, were very much absorbed into an art which became indubitably his own.

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