Mtukudzi has had an illustrious career in the performing arts. Not only is he a singer, arranger and producer, he is also an actor who has appeared in several film productions. He began performing in 1977 with the band Wagon Wheels. Thomas Mapfumo, known as “the Lion of Zimbabwe”, was also in this band. Since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, has reportedly released an average of two albums per year.
The music portal music.org.za describes Mtukudzi as a ‘powerful lyricist’ singing ‘conscious’ music. He uses a multiplicity of languages in his songs, singing in Shona and Ndebele. His is a distinctive sound blending traditional indigenous styles with mbaqanga. The mbira also features prominently in his music as well as a Southern African traditional drumming style, the katekwe. His consistent contribution to music has over the years earned him numerof awards.
Through music and film he often explores the socio-economic realities of people living not only in Zimbabwe, his country of birth but elsewhere on the continent.
He has a wide fan base, having taken care not to isolate fans living in rural areas by performing in far-flung areas away outside of the urban metropoles. This has over the years won him popularity and endeared him to more audiences both on the continent and internationally.
He has performed and collaborated with the likes of Steve Dyer, Ringo Madlingozi, Hugh Masekela, Manu Dibango, Ray Lema, Judith Sephuma, Siphokazi to mention a few. He has also been invited to places such as London, Germany, France, Australia, the United States and Canada. He has toured extensively in Southern Africa to audiences in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia to mention a few, with his band The Black Spirits.
Mtukudzi has made regular appearances at local and international jazz and arts festivals such as Macufe (Bloemfontein), Moretele Park (Mamelodi, Pretoria), Arts Alive’s Jazz on the Lake (Johannesburg) and the North Sea Jazz Festival now known as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. He also had a guest performance on the popular American Talk Show – the David Letterman Show – as well as perform at one of jazz’s premier festivals, the New Orleans Jazz Festival. His travels have seen him bowl over audiences at the Royal Festival Hall during the London Jazz Festival.
Through music and art Mtukudzi entertains while at once educating, a genre of performance commonly referred as edutainment. He often explores HIV and AIDS, alcohol abuse, family values, respect, kindness and moral decay in his music. He has dabbled in film-making and drama appearing in a number of films. Some noteworthy appearances have been in the films “Jit” (1990) and “Neria” (1991). He has composed more than sixty successful original albums. He wrote and directed a live drama musical called “Was my Child” which sought to expose the plight of children living in the streets of Zimbabwe.
To many Tuku is a mentor and a role model. He established the Pakare Paye Arts Centre academy near Harare in Zimbabwe. Through this centre he works with and mentors school leavers developing their music, drama, film, story-telling and poetry talents. He also hosts major arts and culture festivals. In 2011 he was named Zimbabwe’s first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Mtukudzi is married to Daisy and they have five children. His son, Sam, died in a car accident in March 2010. Sam Mtukuzdi was a fully fledged musician in his own right, who from time to time performed with his father.