Tuku leaves indelible mark in Botswana

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Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone
- Before a sold-out crowd, Oliver Mtukudzi hugged his guitar tightly, took a deep breath, and then his fingers began to strut softly across the strings, producing a melody that ejected fans from their seats. One of Tuku's all-time hits, ‘Neria’ bellowed around the packed venue, as the popular Zimbabwean musician delivered another signature performance.
It was October 12, 2018, but unknown to everyone, including the man behind the acoustic guitar, this was to be Mtukudzi's last show on Botswana soil.
Last week, Wednesday, Tuku breathed his last at the Avenues Clinic in Harare, plunging his fans across the world into mourning.
Tuku had made Botswana his second home and would fly into the Botswana capital, Gaborone, every year for the Mascom Live Sessions, a series of popular music shows.
He left his own record at the Botswana Craft, the ceremonial home of the Mascom Live Sessions.
Tuku was the only musician to perform to sold-out Mascom Live Sessions since their inception in 2011.
His last, in October was no different.
Mtukudzi gave his usual high octane performance and, despite his age, the then 65-year-old was as energetic as ever.
It was a sweet goodbye.
The Mascom Live Sessions will now have to search for a new hero to fill the gap left by Tuku's big shoes.
But that search is likely to be lengthy, as Mtukudzi had created a special bond with his Botswana fans, who always looked forward to the Mascom Live Sessions.
"Oh, what about the Mascom Live Sessions," remarked one fan on Facebook, when news filtered in that Mtukudzi was no more.
The man behind Mascom Live Sessions, Oliver Groth, admitted the show will never be the same following Tuku's demise.
"It is heart-breaking and a great loss for the music industry. We have hosted Tuku annually at the Mascom Live Session and he will leave a big gap in our calendar. No one can replace Tuku," Groth told The Southern Times, on his way from Tuku's funeral in Zimbabwe.
Jazz musician, Tomeletso Sereetsi, who shared the stage with Mtukudzi in Botswana in 2016 and 2017, described the late singer as a rare talent.
"I have been really blessed to have collaborated live on stage with Tuku. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It showed just how giving he was. For a talent as high as he was, to agree to take a risk and improvise a song live on stage with a relatively newcomer that I was in 2016, speaks to his value as a nurturer," Sereetsi said in an interview.
"He also came across as a down to earth humble soul. He was a great human being, a great story teller and a great musician. The world is much poorer without him."
Sereetsi said he was due to collaborate with Tuku but the Botswana artist delayed sending material to Harare.
"He had agreed that we record a song together, but I took longer to send him the material to work on. (To Tuku), I can only say thanks for the music and lessons," he said.
Over the weekend, most Botswana radio stations and particularly jazz joints, played Mtukudzi's music as tribute to a gallant son of the industry.

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