Growing up, Oliver Mtukudzi music was part of the staple for Ivy Iseka. She had a chance to meet Mtukudzi performing in Kampala, and she says, “There is something about the man and his deep voice that tells you that you are in the presence of a legend, a demi-god.”
Oliver Mtukudzi during the 2017 Kampala Lockdown Festival, Photo-Lockdown Kampala
There are men you dream of meeting, men whose tales of you listen with great awe and men you hold in high regard, then there is Oliver Mtukudzi.
My first and only encounter with Oliver Mtukudzi was at the Lockdown Kampala Festival.
However, this is not about the festival. If I can get away with it, I will not speak about how hippy Kansiime is in person or how Bobi Wine is the first president to be a Member of Parliament and the fact that it is great fodder for comedy in Uganda.
Growing up as a Kenyan or an African, you are bound to encounter Oliver somewhere between childhood and adolescence. Over the years, Todi has remained one of the most played songs in the continent. As such, when the opportunity to meet the man who sung one of the most enduring songs to address the AIDS scourge, Todii, I was beyond thrilled.
Unlike some pompous African acts who believe they breathe flavoured oxygen, Oliver made it to the venue on time, in humble fashion without flamboyance and the usual army that accompanies artists. He then proceeded to listen to other acts before his performance.
When he got to the stage, he got there the only way only he could do best: playing music on his guitar while softly moving his hips.
When he started singing, the crowd went into a trance for a second. There is something about the man and his deep voice that tells you that you are in the presence of a legend, a demi-god.
His voice was commanding and arresting. Seeing as he was the main act of the night, his first line was enough to make the other performances immediately look like child-play.
His emotion and intimacy with the lyrics and the message was evident throughout his entire performance. What was evident throughout the performance was Oliver’s humility, chemistry with his band and his respect for all of them.
He let them shine and no vocals stumbled over the others. At some point, he spoke on how great it was to be doing what he does at his age. It is incredible, really, at his age, doing tours and being an ambassador for UNICEF. The man has done it all and still does it, old and brittle bones.
In usual old wise man fashion, he gave snippets of wisdom between songs. Even so, he did it in a casual and quietly authoritative way as opposed to the aloof moral vantage point
In the middle of the performance, minutes before he sang and dedicated Neria to the ladies, he went on to gas them up on their beauty and important role in the society. He is as smooth as they come.
At some point, he lost it and gyrated his hips. It was vulgar, surprising and mostly entertaining. For those many seconds, he stopped being Oliver. He became a man.
Just before his last song, he jokingly asserted that he was not going to die, implying he would not sing Todi, the fans’ favourite. The crowd would not have it. He had to sing Todi and sing he did. It was better than I would ever have imagined.
Towards the end of his performance, there was this loud rush of electric energy, blinding lights and his commanding vocals. It was a perfect moment. I looked at the man and the legend as the song I grew up to echoed. If I ever could choose an ideal moment to die, that would have been it.
Oliver is truly a force. A force that everyone should reckon with, even for a second.
If I ever could choose an ideal moment to die, that would have been it.