Morris Mtisi Post Correspondent
This critique was written a few days before Tuku passed on. It was never meant to be an obituary. Only God knew it would. It is painfully sad that he never lived to see it, read it and love it. I will publish it posthumously on both Diamond FM-The Radio Teacher programme and The Manica Post as intended. May the obituaries resonate with the deeper sense and meaning the circumstances now naturally summon.
The title is a simple appeal for someone to increase an appetite for admission of guilt. . .an inclination towards quickly saying, ‘I am sorry.’ Dr Oliver Mtukudzi is saying to the person he is addressing in his song, “It is not painful to say sorry.”
From the outset Tuku is saying respect does not come from academic qualifications: diplomas, certificates, degrees…“ Hazvidi madegree.” It comes from humility, modesty, meekness, dignity, honour, submissiveness, veracity, uprightness. ‘Please may I. . .thank you. . .I am sorry.’ These are human values that must be reflected in someone’s words. . .someone’s speech. . .in one’s language, the musical doctor says. “When you open up your mouth to speak, there must be these values oozing Ubunthu/ Hunhu, not verbal stench.
You do not need a university degree or college diploma to reflect all these virtues. These come at no cost. Respect is earned. It comes from the way you conduct yourself. . .the way you speak. . .the way you act. This is the gist of this great song.
The good doctor is not called Superstar for nothing. As in many of his gems, Tuku does not sing for approval, fame, glory or awards. But he ends up getting all of them.
In ‘Wanzai Sori’ he sings sense and truth. He engages his heart and conscience to command musical sense you want to listen to over and over again.
We cannot escape the sense of warning exuding from complex sound and lyrical arrangement. Dr Tuku is obviously making a musical response to a worrying phenomenon dogging society; a society that has lost humility, honour, dignity and simple gratefulness.
Is Tuku unleashing his gentle attack even against the Media-particularly Radio where presenters or personalities no one will mention, talk about anything without a sense of dignity, uprightness or veracity. . .without any sense of cultural and moral restraint?
Is Dr Tuku warning these foul-mouthed public broadcasters or radio presenters who have no limits to what they can say or cannot say. . .‘washama muromo. . . washama kutaura, mukanwa makareruka.’ You open your mouth and out comes verbal stench or acid, he says and asks, “Do you need a degree to be dignified. . .to be virtuous in speech. . .to observe strict hygiene in speech?”
If respect comes from how we speak and what we speak and what language we use in public, and of course it does, is the good doctor putting a lot of radio foul-mouthed presenters on the spot? Is he addressing politicians may be? May be church leaders and followers alike? May be addressing spouses in a marriage relationship? May be students in a high school, college or university. . .even at the work place! Ubunthu /Hunhu is paramount.
Whoever and whatever circumstance the good doctor is addressing, what is clear is that the same values and virtues apply or refer.
If one listens to this song with intelligent fluency, you do not miss the strong feeling of connection between the song and experiences in our own lives. This song like many of his chart-busters, old and new, searches for identity and virtue in people.
Tuku boldly, loudly and beautifully speaks to individuals who are too arrogant to apologise when they are wrong. The courage to say sorry is virtuous, he says. The song like many of his, if not all, conveys powerful interactive and reflective learning.
If one successfully engages with the song ‘Wanza Sori’, its meaning, content and context, it is highly didactic. The good doctor does not narrate a story. He is on point, morally evangelising and sermonising his audience without the Bible, typical of the Superstar. He is not a story teller in this great song. He is a teacher, a pastor and preacher put together but without pulpit punditry. He aims at his target with sense, precision and wisdom.
With the same honour and humility he is appealing for in his song, so does he make a deep but gentle appeal for sanity. “No one needs a degree to be able to distinguish decent language from verbal trash.”
Is he imploring Zimbabwean political, religious and other leaders to learn the honour in apologising when you have erred? Is he reaching out to spouses in matrimonial relationships to have human virtues? We could ask more questions? And be correct!
Whatever the answers to these important questions, no one will ever know. Dr Mtukudzi is famous for enjoying cryptic teaching leaving people guessing. But one thing certain remains clear. People have lost manners and it is the privilege of music to speak to the ills of human behaviour.
While music potentially drugs people and corrupts them through and through in various ways, it can also restrain people from idle, irresponsible manners that make society cheap and without decorum.
Tuku in ‘Wanza Sori’ despite its deep and penetrating message and appeal for humility, modesty and veracity, does not swear at or take his audience by musical force. He seemingly simply reminds them that they do not need diplomas or degrees to reflect semblances of behavioural sanity, yet the musical dagger penetrates deep but gently. His ability to do this can and is only typical of musical juggernauts of Tuku’s size.
This song is not overdone. It is not overcrowded. It is not suffocated with narrative detail or musical superfluity. It harps on virtue and emphasizes that that virtue is earned, not learnt or studied at university.
The biggest moral that he teaches without saying it is that therefore even those who are at university by implication do not necessarily have these virtues. Why? Because virtues like these are not automatic gifts from a benevolent god naturally attained by belonging to a university. He is both subtly and satirically saying even universities, where degrees are obtained, will not and do not have Ubunthu /Hunhu falling like manna from university skies.
Alongside a deep rather melancholic appeal for Ubunthu is perfect mellifluence gained through perfect synchronisation of a signature voice and instrumental refinement, this is a perfect recording. The typical rich Tuku instrumentation evident in Wanza Sori perfectly echoes the quest for behavioural uprightness being invoked in the song. There is distinct discipline of instruments and lyrics together taking every fluent and disciplined listener exactly where the Superstar wants to take him or her. This he does with a rare gift of musical sophistication only accredited to superstars like Tuku.
Those naturally gifted with fluency in their listening do not struggle to recognise the way and extent this great song titillates auditory intelligence. This song qualifies as a model of perfect psycholinguistics, namely the touch of musical language on the stem of the brain. It confirms how Dr Tuku lived his life like old wine, becoming stronger and better with age.
Because great music is not perishable, may your beautiful music continue to bloom like immortal flowers that charm our simple minds.