Bvumai Machembera: Retire or risk dying on stage like Makeba, musicians Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo told


An ordinary working citizen is expected to retire from the age of 55 to 65 but with musicians, it doesn’t seem to be the case as most of them keep performing way after reaching that age.

Most African musicians who are above 70 years old still take to the stage and actually tour the globe which is not very ideal for their health.

The late South African singer/songwriter and anti-apartheid advocate Miriam Makeba who died in 2008 at the age of 76 while performing in Italy as well as Hugh Masekela are some artistes who come to mind.

After a battle with prostate cancer, Hugh Masekela died at the age of 79.

Even though he was in his late 70s, the legendary jazz musician did not want to give up the mic and his saxophone as he was still performing at events such as the Heritage Festival in the USA and touring in South Africa.

Another African music legend Papa Wemba collapsed and died on stage in 2016 while performing in Côte d’Ivoire.

He was 66. Last week, local veteran musician Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (66) reportedly suffered a heart attack which saw him miss the London Jazz Festival.

In his late 60s, the sought-after musician still performs around the world and as always, he leaves his fans asking for more.

He has been performing in Botswana, South Africa and Rwanda with more trips lined up for the festive season.

The tight schedule however seems to be taking a toll on his health with his doctor suggesting that he takes it easy.

The other veteran musician Thomas ‘Mukanya’ Mapfumo seems to be also straining himself as evidenced by his performance at the Big Bira in Harare earlier this year.

After over a decade without performing in Zimbabwe, Mapfumo seems to be on a mission to make up for all the lost time as he has lined up a Peace Tour in the country that will see him performing in almost all the country’s provinces this month.

Those who attended his Homecoming Bira should have noticed that he is no longer as lively on stage as he used to be. It leaves one wondering how he will be able to stage shows in nine towns in a month.

Travelling the world and performing at high profile events is every musician’s dream but there comes a time in life when one should call it a day and relax.

Most of these musicians have been in the music business for over three decades and have done very well for themselves financially such that they can afford to take a break and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Tuku for example has Pakare Paye Arts Centre that was established in 2003 and comprises of a conference centre, restaurants, lodges, offices, as well as an open-air stage. If managed well, this centre can generate a lot of income for him and his grandchildren.

However, Tuku recently declared that he would not be retiring.

Responding to one Romeo who had suggested that the superstar should make room for the younger generation or risk dying on stage like Makeba, Tuku said: “The reason is because I didn’t apply to be myself so one can’t retire from being himself. How do you run away or say I’m done being myself?

“As artists, we have no term of office or a set retirement age, this is who we are. It’s not an employment career, it’s our life,” responded Tuku.

He added that as artistes, whether young or old, they were not in competition with each other but were in this world to complement each other.

— Chronicle

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