Stanely Mushava Arts Correspondent
THE late Brian Sibalo’s family has enlisted session artistes for renditions of the gospel legend’s popular jams. Although Sibalo remains one of the greatest psalmists to emerge on the gospel scene, his music has sadly lapsed into oblivion, 16 years after his death at the age of 32 in 1997. The forthcoming compilation is set to refresh memories of Sibalo’s expertise.
While most television viewers are familiar with the video “Tinokutendai Baba,” Sibalo was the force behind such hit albums including “Revival Time,” “Busa Nkosi,” “Thula Moya,” “Jerusalem,” and “Ndiri Mufambi.”
By the time Sibalo died, gospel music was becoming commercialised and debates about whether gospel musicians sang for God or money were common. Sibalo steadfastly opposed the idea to sing for money and advised his fellow gospel musicians to be careful of being swayed from spreading the gospel by the love for money.
The gospel prodigy, who also presented a Radio 3 (now Power FM) programme “Beats with a Message,” set out in 1983 at a time when the music industry was predominantly secular, with gospel songs confined to churches, funerals, weddings and other social events.
Sibalo joined a small group of gospel music pioneers including Freedom Sengwayo, Jordan Chataika and Mechanic Manyeruke in pushing the genre into the mainstream arena.
At the time of his death, he was working on “Busa Nkosi.” Peter Mparutsa had to complete the production, with Sibalo’s young brother, Daniel, now an artiste in his own right.
The Herald Entertainment recently caught up with family spokesperson Ndabe Sibalo for a reflection on Brian’s career and the ongoing project.
“As a family we feel his music touched a lot of people and we have been pressured by mounting requests on social media to release a compilation of his beloved hits,” Ndabe said.
Sibalo’s musical journey, Ndabe intimated, steamed off at the age of five when he got his first guitar from his father. It was rather strange for a father to introduce such a young son to music considering the negative picture musicians had that time.
“However, a career in the mainstream industry was not that easy for him. He started out rather early (remember he was only 18 when he recorded his first album) and had to brave being compared to older musicians such as Sengwayo, Chataika and Manyeruke,” Ndabe recalled.
“He began working with the Golden Gospel Sounds a group made up of the Manyame siblings in 1994 and recorded four albums with them under Zimbabwe Music Corporation.
“Those were the years of “Oh Hallelujah”, “Sizofika Ezulwini”, “I Believe in the Power of Prayer” and “Thuma Mina” among other releases”
Sibalo suffered an early setback when ZMC charged that his first album, “Oh Hallelujah” flopped because he was imitating Sengwayo.
Far from being doused, Sibalo severed ties with ZMC and went on drop hit after hit under a new stable, RTP.
“Sizofika Ezulwini” secured a distinctive niche for Sibalo.
“The early albums were warmly received by the majority of congregants from our church, the Apostolic Faith Mission in Africa because of the church’s influence in his music,” Ndabe narrated.
“Brian worked for ZESA and he was transferred from his base in Gweru to Harare just as his music career began to take a good shape. This gave him the opportunity to work with session artistes, which made his move to RTP easy. He teamed up with Ray Makahamadze, Bothwell Nyamondera and Peter Mparutsa at the stable.
“Ndiri Mufambi (I’m a Pilgrim) was recorded with his new stable and was well received by the public. More good albums followed and Brian collaborated with Isaac Chirwa, Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, Jerry Nyatoro, Sam Mataure and Clency Mbirimi and several other artistes for recordings.”
Sibalo was committed to charity and devoted a number of concerts to the benefit of disadvantaged children. He advised fellow gospel artists not to be tossed away from the evangelical commission by the love for money.
“Brian loved children and embraced any opportunity to play for them just for the pleasure of it without claiming payment. That’s why, for instance, you hear him singing “Ofanana Naye” with the kids on his album “Jerusalem”.
“Although music could not pay him back in monetary terms, Brian just sang from his love for Christ. Fortunately, he was blessed to with a good job as a training officer and used his own resources to finance his music without any external incentive, though the going was not exactly easy.
“I cannot honestly remember a time when Brian sang to make money, though money was needed to pay for recordings and related expenses. Even up to now it’s not easy for us as a family to chase for his royalties because we feel he never sang for money and we should not be seen to run around for the money now that he is no longer with us.
“Brian was a warm admirer of Jimmy Swaggart and Andrea Crouch and he passed on while watching Swaggart’s televised sermon ‘The Healing of a Nobleman’s Son’.”