Cyril Taenda Mushambi
There have been very few instances when Zimbabwean journalists and leading critiques have taken time out to write books especially about notable figures in society in spite of their proximity to such big names.
How we hardly have books about Thomas Mapfumo, Khama Billiat, Cont Mhlanga, Moses Chunga, Peter Ndlovu, Wayne and Cara Black penned by Zimbabwean sports or arts journalists is a wonder. Only a few want to take the pen and ink a book to record the passage of time and important history.
However, this has finally been broken in an upcoming book entitled Oliver Mtukudzi and Me, A Life in Song and Media by decorated journalist and arts critic Robert Mukondiwa that is due to be released ideally in November this year.
The book becomes the second to his title after the first Nama-nominated one titled The Judas Files although he has previously been published by Macmillan South Africa in an anthology of real life stories entitled Thembi’s Story and other Autobiographical stories.
The book, also known as Tuku and Me, is set to be a banger and perhaps the biggest book of the year by any measure for both its entertainment value and its power to inform the reader on personal interactions between Mukondiwa and arguably the biggest artiste to ever come out of Zimbabwe in the history of music in the nation.
Fast-paced, gritty, funny and emotional all rolled up in one, Tuku and Me offers insights into the mind of the author himself, revealing how his own upbringing and personal life made him appreciate Oliver Mtukudzi in his own way and what made their professional relationship all the more intriguing as they stumbled in both good and bad times.
From the time when the writer was an ardent follower to when he was behind the computer penning one of the most career-devastating story of Tuku’s more than half-a-decade long musical journey to a time of reconciliation and even classroom moments when Tuku would teach the writer about basic things in life, the book is a gem that was waiting to be unearthed.
Intriguing is the journeys the two had outside of work and it is in their interactions there that one gets into the mind of Oliver Mtukudzi from his love for nature and songwriting prowess reflecting such to his fatherhood methods that emphasised that people had to make names for themselves and not ride on the back of their famous parents.
A son of a journalist and former Sunday Mail Editor, the late Pascal Mukondiwa, the author was also whipped into line by Tuku to wean himself from being the son of an editor to a writer in his own right. The book also opens up to the journalism student that journalism is not for the faint-hearted. The author reveals in witty language the many times he got beaten up by bouncers at Tuku shows after revealing the Mwendi Chibindi-Tuku love affair.
In one of these instances he recalls the confrontation with Tuku’s former manager, whom he was to later become decent friends with, after they had published a story on Tuku and Mwendi’s affair and sought comment from her (Debbie Metcalfe). “Like a raging buffalo I could see her eyes red with fury as she approached. Her long wavy tufts of wheat, bisque and ecru coloured brown hair flying off her shoulders. I couldn’t guess what she was thinking or planning. But I certainly knew, even after having had a couple of beers to get some Dutch courage, that this woman was not coming to give me a kiss.
“What do you want from TyuKoo? (Tuku). You already tried to destroy him and you have the nerve to come and ask for a comment from me? You at The Sunday Mail are gutter press. Take them out of here!” she said instructing a bouncer. Not just any bouncer. A large dark apparition that was the size of three Robert Mukondiwas, that was how big. He gave me a couple of knocks and roughed me up. I was dazed. From the thumping. From the alcohol. Or perhaps both.
I had left Garikai Mazara and photographer Lee Maidza near the exit and they saw me. In that darkness, as I was bundled out like unwanted trash and tossed outside the venue. We had paid to enter. It is an entry fee that I will never forget. Wasted. Perhaps I should have enjoyed the show then gone for a comment later. But it is what it is.
Getting back to work, that was the response I used. The thumping, and being labelled gutter press. Tuku himself had then put us all as persona non grata at his shows. And for a while after that we would attend the shows for our pleasure, but covered by hoodies to ensure we were not picked out and given a right old thumping.”
One of the beauties of this book is the mastery of language as Mukondiwa uses his celebrated control of the English language and his descriptive prowess to make the book and the stories come to life. His recollection of the first body viewing he had of Sam Mtukudzi alongside Oliver, Daisy and a select few at a Harare funeral parlour is one that easily can draw tears of the reader.
However, his anecdotes of blips and blunders by his father on occasion as well as life as a journalist in Zimbabwe make this a beautiful quick read. Tuku and Me is beautiful, poignant, unputdownable and certainly award-winning in potential.
His honesty in the narrative is also fun to follow. The chalk and cheese nature of his relationship with Tuku is also interesting. While Tuku did not like heavy drinking, his tolerance of a heavy drinking young Robert Mukondiwa can make you chuckle. It is as much a story of an apprentice of life in Mukondiwa as it is a story of a great media-sceptic artiste in Tuku and how their two’s almost very different worlds collide in modern-day Zimbabwe.
It is also beautiful in that it is written in a way that does not focus on Tuku’s flaws, but celebrates him as an artiste, humanises him and pays tribute to him. No malice, no hate, no anger; just pure facts and emotions written so smoothly you could almost see a film as it is laid out.
Oliver Mtukudzi and Me is a great narrative way to end the year. The hope is many more people either follow Mukondiwa’s lead and start writing or perhaps he gets the urge to focus more on writing and telling stories through books after his deliberate push to retire from full-time journalistic writing almost three years ago. This book is sheer genius!
Commenting on the forthcoming book, Mukondiwa said penning the book was no walk in the park as it required a lot of funds.
“To write a story of this kind takes enormous amounts of funds. The project cost me a lot of funds from my personal coffers and many people are put off by these costs. You may have people professing to be willing to fund legacy projects like this, but only a few ever show up and so many stop writing.
“In this instance, I just told myself it’s either the present is unfair to me and I will not write without funding support and be unfair to the future by not recording an awesome experience such as this for them. I chose the future. It was a labour of love and the prayer is that one day, people see how important these stories are and start investing in them,” Mukondiwa said.