Since the  Covid -19 pandemic struck around the globe sending nations into isolation, the demand to use technology has never been this greater. On the local front one section of society who have had to rely on technology to push their work are musicians.

Gender and Community Editor, Fatima Bulla-Musakwa spoke to revered gospel musician, Pastor Charles Charamba about the impact of Covid 19 on the industry. Apart from impacting the world with the gospel outfit Fishers of Men, Pastor Charamba and his wife Olivia founded Rooted in Christ Ministries.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

Question: How has your music and church ministry been affected by the pandemic?
Answer: The good thing about the Church in general is that it exists and operates from victory standpoint. No situation shall ever, utterly dampen the spirit of the church because it thrives in all circumstances and environments. We are therefore making use of the available resources and platforms to reach out to members. Of course there are connectivity challenges for some members , while others can’t be reached due to relocation. We continue to pray for them.

The period in which we are has demanded for innovation and a selflessness as we have been involved in countless interventions both as musicians and church leaders. As the Charambas, we are grateful to God were part of the first group of musicians to entertain people in their homes on Independence Day when we performed virtually on ZBCTV with our children from home. The modalities of lockdown performances were still sketchy among many by then. We got involved in more of these later.

The church needed and continue to need our emotional and spiritual support and we have been doing our best to fulfill that. Members of the general public not necessarily church mates also continue to seek counsel through various media and we are committed to serve in the best possible ways. Shepherding souls is never a burden to us, Christ is our anchor and strength. It’s not been easy though.

Q How are you “shepherding the flock”?
A We have embraced technology as a medium in reaching out to congregants. The world is fast becoming one melting pot hence we took advantage of the dire situation to launch deeper into the world. We are targeting our own countrymen for now, whom we should empathise with, comfort and encourage during this pandemic hence the use of Shona in most of our sermons.

We are not too sure if we have lost membership because communication hasn’t been at its best during the period but we have been trying  to stay in contact with those with communication lines. We have spent reasonable amounts of money in communication alone during this period as we call and connect with our fellow members.

Q Do you think your ministry will ever be the same in terms of hosting shows, recording new projects and revenues expected?
A The bitter truth is that nothing stays the same in life. There is a glaring whole lot of dynamics in the field of music and arts in general.

Pulpit-preaching, song ministry and entertainment in general are being redefined . Revolution of the arts is no longer taking lengthy breaks like in the olden days, say, between baroque and renaissance, or renaissance to classical periods when change would happen after 50 to 100 years. New musical inventions are no longer lasting and surviving for decades like the previously celebrated periods of Jazz, Punk Rock, Di-gong, Kanindo, Kwasa Kwasa, Westlife, Roots Reggae etcetera.

As the Charambas, we really miss our multitude of followers whom we used to minister to in venues like Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex, Harare Gardens, Bulawayo Amphitheater, Bulawayo Large City Hall, Sakubva Beithall in Mutare, PaGomba in Beitbridge, Nyamhunga Stadium in Kariba and many others. To a lesser extent we feel relieved by the new trends in a way because we have lived a roller-coaster lifestyle since 1997 as we engaged in music tours with very little breaks. At least we can breath, though as Fishers of Men family, we are deprived of the regular incomes we are accustomed to. We can’t hide the fact that we miss our fans who always attend concerts in huge numbers. We miss the dear souls, church mates who are locked in homes. We encourage them to stay put, Covid 19 shall go.

While the traditional concert side of things is yet to be established, post Covid 19 era, the recording side is undisturbed due to the availability of recording facilities. The distribution of music products has also taken a major shift, becoming less cumbersome as has been the case in the 1990s-2000s. We therefore have challenges to overcome and celebrations to make at the same time. Jesus will heal every one of our challenges, He’s the only doctor not to have lost a patient!

I assure everyone that through Christ, we are going to stand all the pressures that are associated with technological advancement through transforming ourselves and evolving with the times. We however will need to preserve the African gospel music brand which is becoming a formidable music culture in the region. In short, we are conforming without losing the Zimbabwe and African flavor. We are also glad with the newer opportunities that are imbedded in the new technology which exposes us to newer, global markets.

Q Do you think social media is effective in preaching the gospel and reaching to your audience?
A There are mixed realities with the use of technology in sending the gospel out there. The global trends are evolving such that technology is fast becoming the norm. The progress being made by those driving it are dictating that we adopt it fully or ship out. It’s been not so easy crossing from yesteryear musical culture to the modern. The reality is that some artists would be losing certain of their musical followers who may not be capacitated to change with times.

Conventional concerts will return but would not exactly be the same as those of the past. There’s going to be a major shift from the manner in which performances used to be managed. Average talent won’t be sustained, less talented artists will be offloaded by the newer trends

Q What do you think about a Government fund to cushion artists from the shocks of Covid 19?
A Definitely government should be persuaded to fund the arts sector. I don’t know how much advocacy is needed to convince government that the arts industry can play a huge role in bettering our economy. All things being equal, local artists can rise to the occasion and produce incredible products that can put the country on the map.

We salute our government for supporting other sectors like mining and agriculture, they however need to try bankrolling the arts and see what happens.

Q Any plans to release a new album anytime soon?
A We have ready material for release, however we had to assist our children release their debut two singles – Mbiriri Yose and Tonamata Jesu a week ago. They had since recorded in May 2019 but weren’t in any hurry to release.

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