HIS face was slightly moist. A sign that someone had quickly washed his face so he would be presentable to those who had come to see him.
His hands were neatly folded across his chest like the classic pictures on pious saints in Roman Catholic literature. Covering him to around the waist area was a crisp white taut linen that had signs of regular starching time and again-neat sheets.
He lay, almost as if in a deep sleep, but one that he would wake up from. His lips pursed at the edges, yet slightly open leaving enough room to see that a tooth may have been missing. His torso showed another sign that perhaps he wouldn’t wake up from this sleep; zig-zag marks showing he had been ripped open at the chest area perhaps for a post-mortem and had been stitched together in large lazy stitches; each zig-zag stretch being perhaps half an inch long.
But there were some who hoped he would wake up. To my right his father, Oliver Mtukudzi, towered over the remains of his son, breathing a gravelly song into his ear. Singing for this cold, quiet mound of flesh that only hours before, had been one of the bubbliest bursts of life ever to grace our nation. And perhaps the brightest spark in the future of Zimbabwean music and the arts in general.
Oliver’s voice drifted into the ears of his son. That legendary voice with both grit and melody in awkwardly equal measure. It fell in his son’s ears like warm golden grains of African sand falling into the ears of this sleeping man. It is everybody’s dream — a special performance by this legendary god of African music, singing just for you. But not in this case. It was a tragedy of immense proportions. A performance one would rather do without.
But not as tragic as what was happening to the left of him.
Sam’s mother, Daisy Mtukudzi, was singing a song of her own. A song of hope against hope. A dirge to her son with the last gasp. Open his eyes. Blink.
Perhaps chuckle at having been part of a bad joke. But Sam was an artiste and not a jester. When he sang he sang from the heart. And when he died, his heart stopped with him.
“Sam. Ndimhamha. Sam chimuka ndauya. Sam hazvichanakidza,” Daisy said imploring him to quit this sombre dry cruel joke. She wanted him to wake up because his mother had come and yet a joke it was not.
Her tears flowed as her voice broke intermittently in between her pleas for her son to wake.
My eyes caught those of the people in there. Despite us being quite a number, there were just three sounds one could hear. Daisy’s voice, Oliver’s song and the sound of the silence of Sam Mtukudzi’s heart.
It has been seven years since that tragic day on the Ides of March; March 15, 2010 when Sam Mtukudzi and his beloved friend Owen Chimhare met their perilous end in a tragic accident along the Harare-Norton Highway just a stone’s throw from the turn into Kuwadzana extension.
Yet the nation still has not taken stock of what value indeed they lost in his death. They perhaps never will. For Sam was a priceless gift to the world of the arts and the expected torchbearer into the future alongside other talented artistes of his generation. That was not to be.
Today, some may contemplate that perhaps had he had his seatbelt on, he would have lived to see this day. His father worries that had he come a day earlier from an international trip as originally planned, he would have averted Sam and Owen from taking the unplanned second trip to the city to welcome him and his wife from South Africa.
Zimbabwe thinks if she had ensured our roads are safe the two would still be alive today, doing what they did best; creating smiles in a nation that badly needs upliftment of the soul.
All we know for sure is no amount of grief and soul searching can bring Sam and his colleague back seven years down the line.
With two marvellous posthumous albums — Musiirwa and Cheziya, several unreleased material and an almost palpable array of wonderful memories, Sam Mtukudzi and his amazing legacy will never depart from Zimbabwe and her cultural landscape.