OLIVER Mtukudzi’s former publicist Shepherd Mutamba seems to be raising more dust than he had anticipated with Tuku Backstage, a biography of the illustrious musician.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Arguably the most successful musician in Zimbabwe and even in the region, Tuku — as Mtukudzi is popularly known — is many people’s role model and favourite artist. His real or perceived shortcomings have never been publicly spoken about and Mutamba has done that in many chapters in his book.
Musician, music professor and friend of both Tuku and Mutamba, Fredy Zindi said it was a pity that the situation had become this messy.
He said throughout the over 30 years that he had known the two, he has learnt that there are people that had become jealous of the musician because of his exploits.
Zindi said Tuku was already successful when Mutamba joined him and was at one time asked by Mutamba to jointly write a book about the musician.
“We, as humans are all envious of successful people. I have plenty of examples of some musicians and those who worked for Oliver who started to think that they were shareholders in his success and wanted proceeds from his earnings shared equally,” said Zindi.
“They also wanted to be part of his hard won investments. What they forgot was that it took years for Oliver to build the brand that he is today. When he employed Shepherd as a publicist, he already had a name.”
Added Zindi: “At one point, Shepherd mooted the idea of us writing a book on Oliver together. When I asked him to seek Oliver’s permission so that we could freely interview him and ask him what should go in the book and what should not, I never heard from Shepherd about this topic again.
Zindi said he has not seen any evidence of authorisation of the biography by Tuku.
“I have not seen any evidence which shows that Tuku authorised the publishing of Tuku Backstage although Shepherd says he obtained Oliver’s permission,” he said.
“The author is privy to information only attainable from the subject of the book. Shepherd was in a privileged position because working for Oliver, he would talk, observe and even ask for the information he wanted to know, some of which could have been confidential.”
He said Mutamba should have contacted Tuku after he had finished writing and asked for his blessing to get information and cooperation as the artiste is still alive.
“As it is, the whole issue is a mess. Who gets the royalties from the book? One can write someone else’s biography without contacting the person using information gathered from public records and other resources, but he should not have to make any unprofessional compromises on matters of a private and confidential nature which are not already in public domain. Unfortunately, this is what Shepherd did,” said Zindi.
“In my opinion, Shepherd is a sensible person. There must have been a fall-out between Shepherd and Oliver during the period they were working together.” Mutamba could not be reached for comment.
Music promoter and arts critic Biggie Chinoperekwei feels the book makes everyone uncomfortable around journalists.
“It is two-pronged. If Tuku did not put a confidentiality clause in his contract with Mutamba, then he authorised it. The trend is that you make a person sign a confidentiality clause that binds them not to release any closely guarded information,” said Chinoperekwei.
“Morally, it makes us feel very uncomfortable as well as it poses so many questions with regards to biographies. Should we not write biographies because one party may not feel comfortable? Or should we write and give the subject to edit out information that they do not want in the public? This in turn makes the biography untruthful.”
He said at the end of the day Tuku Backstage becomes Tukuin Mutamba’s eyes. Chinoperekwi said Tuku has already refuted what is in the book which may not mean much because anyone who feels they can write about Tuku can write about the musician according to their own views.
Chinoperekwei said he does not see Mutamba making money from the sales of the book, partly because the reading culture in this country is dead.
“It does not follow that because Tuku has multitudes that follow him the book will sell a million copies. Of course there are academics here and there but the people who actually read, particularly in Zimbabwe, are very few,” said Chinoperekwei.
Mutamba yesterday refused to divulge how many copies had been printed or how the book had performed so far.
Another commentator who refused to be named said Mutamba had made serious enemies from both the political side and the media.
“He literally dragged everyone’s name into the mud, including allegations that journalists get bribes. It really is a mess. Although the book is quite balanced, [in] this side of the world it is going to be difficult for most of the people’s lives to be normal again,” he said.