1990-2000: Emergence of ‘sungura’ gospel music

23 Apr, 2015 - 00:04 0 Views

The Herald

Lovemore Chikova Christian Entertainment
I have received so much feedback from readers of this column with regards to the subject I touched on last week. Some readers went a gear further and advised that I should continue tracing the rise of gospel music up to where it is today.

That is exactly what I will be doing for the next few weeks.

I will still be working with the theme on independence and its benefits to not only gospel music, but the development of the church itself.

Last week’s column rightly indicated that without independence, very few gospel artistes would have come to the fore.

In fact, before independence, the history of gospel music in Zimbabwe was rarely documented.

After the country became independent in 1980, several gospel music groups started dominating the airwaves.

The early groups and singers were Freedom Sengwayo, Jordan Chataika, Mechanic Manyeruke, Brian Sibalo and the Family Singers.

The next decade between 1990 and 2000, which is the subject of this week’s column, saw the texture and structure of gospel music taking a new turn.

This was also the decade when many evangelical and pentecostal churches started dominating the scene in Zimbabwe.

These churches believed that the promotion of gospel music also aids the preaching of the word, and as a result music played a central role in the churches.

Apart from establishing live bands which performed during church crusades and services, the churches encouraged talented members to go a step further and record their music.

This was when there was a departure from the slow beat that used to characterise local gospel music recordings, to the fast beat that is now the hallmark of local gospel music.

During this decade, gospel music opened up and embraced the sungura beat that had been a taboo in the genre.

Although other early groups like the Family Singers had started employing the sungura beat towards the late 80s, it was the groups which emerged later that perfected the fusion of sungura with gospel music.

One of the major reasons why this change was possible was because the 1990s had seen the consolidation of sungura music in general.

This was the time when popular secular sungura musical groups like Leonard Dembo and the Barura Express, John Chibadura and The Tembo Brothers, Leonard Zhakata and the Zimbabwean All Stars Band, Nicholas Zakaria and Khiama Boys and Simon Chimbetu and the Ochestra Dendera Kings were at their peak.

These groups popularised sungura music to the extent that all other genres tended to borrow heavily from the beat, and this included gospel music.

The success of gospel musical groups of this decade can adequately be attributed to their embracing of sungura and Zimbabwean traditional music beats.

This period was dominated by gospel groups such as Charles Charamba and the Fishers of Men, the Mahendere Brothers, Elias Musakwa and Ngaavongwe, Pastor Lawrence Haisa, Egea Gospel Train and Sam Munyai, who was popularly known as Brother Sam.

Charles Charamba

One of the gospel musicians who successfully rode on the popularity of sungura music is Charles Charamba.

His first album “Tinashe Akatendeka” was recorded in 1997 and was a perfect fusion of gospel musical beats and sungura beats.

Although this album did not make Charamba the popular gospel musician he is today, many music lovers sat up and took notice when it was released.

Charamba formed the Fishers of Men band and roped in some of the well-known church guitarists who were flexible and could embrace any beat without qualms.

The embracing of the sungura beat in his music meant that Charamba’s music was no longer confined only to the church.

At one point, his music became so popular that it competed with secular music on radio, television and even in nightclubs and beer halls.

Charamba roped in his wife Olivia in the band who would later sing her own songs, first on the same albums with her husband, and later graduating to produce her own full albums.

As Charamba developed in music, he started to encompass elements of sungura, jazz, jiti and traditional beats such as mbakumba and mhande.

His albums so far are “Tinashe Akatendeka” (1997), “Johanne 3:16” (1998), “Exodus” (2001), “Sunday Service” (2003), “Verses and Chapters” (2004), “Daily Bread” (2002), “New Testament In Song” (2007), “Pashoko Pangoma” (2010) and “Wenazareta” (2014).

Mahendere Brothers

This is a family band started by the Mahendere siblings with the help of their parents.

What made this group unique was that the siblings were young when they ventured into singing, but still managed to have their fair share of popularity.

The group, like Charamba, also rode on the popularity of sungura music and heavily borrowed from the genre.

Although they employed some keyboards in their music, the lead, rhythm and bass guitars still dominated their acts, just like the case in sungura.

The group is made up of brothers Amos, Akim, Misheck and Michael.

Mahendere Brothers produced albums and songs that became very popular and in 1998 their video to the song “Hupenyu Hwepanyika” was voted the Best Video of the Year on ZTV, beating an array of songs from other genres.

The group had its debut album “Pasi Rino Rapinduka” in 1994 and this opened the way for other popular albums like “Hupenyu Hwepanyika”, “Psalm 23”, “Africa Yorumbidza” and “The Good Shepherd”.

Elias Musakwa and Ngaavongwe

Musakwa was one of the musicians who became popular in the 1990s because of his mastery in fusing gospel music with sungura.

He did this so perfectly to the extent that most of his songs were purely sungura and very danceable as a result.

Musakwa went on to hold annual shows which he dubbed “Ngaavongwe Explosion” where he performed alongside some local gospel acts and others from South Africa.

His albums included “Satan Rikiti”, “Ngaavongwe Yoputika”, Rugare Ruve Nemi” and “Hande Kudenga”.

Egea Gospel Train also made its mark in the 1990s, albeit with only two albums “Mufudzi Wangu” and “Ndinokudai Jesu”.

The group soon disbanded with its lead singers Ivy Kombo and Caroline Chiwenga starting their solo projects.

Other gospel groups that were noticeable during this period were Gospel Trumpet, CCAP Voice of Mbare and Pastor Chakanetsa Bandimba of the “Jesu Dombo” fame.

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