musician, Charles Charamba.
The Vice Chancellor of Africa University, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, and the acting Dean of Africa University, T. Kuture, expressed their pleasure when they announced that they were happy to see a notable musician, who is already in the industry graduating with a National Certificate in Music and receiving an award for being the best all-round student.
This is not the first time a prominent musician has graduated at the College of Music. Other prominent musicians who came before Charles include the late Dumi Ngulube, Chiwoniso Maraire, Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, Rute Mbangwa, Dudu Manhenga and Clive Mono Mukundu.
When I asked Charles what had made him decide to undergo studies at the College of Music, this was his response:
“After touring Britain and the United States I found myself limited as my fans kept asking me for transcriptions of my music. I decided I must learn to read and write music and this is what inspired me to join the College of Music.”
Indeed, with his popularity and ability to deliver gospel hits such as “Sarudzai”, “Masimba Ndeenyu”, “Kumakomo Uko”, “Handidi Naye”, “Tauya Kuzomutenda” and many others, the decision to improve his musical skills to make better, best was a good move.
A few years ago, especially between 2007 and 2008, gospel music became very popular. I am not sure whether it was the lyrics that inspired the people or the beat, but whatever it was, made big business for record companies and artistes alike.
When I asked one gospel singer what it is behind the popularity of such music, he gave a simple answer: “People need inspiration in these difficult times and they need to know that there is hope somewhere. Gospel music provides that platform and gives one hope that things will get better some day..”
I asked the same question to another gospel musician and his response was: “Well, I live by a simple philosophy which I learnt from my father, ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest until the good is better and the better is best. Gospel music makes the world a better place and by singing gospel songs, I am trying to bring out the good in everyone of us.
“That is my philosophy in doing everything I do and I believe if everyone followed this philosophy, the world would be a better place”.
Charamba’s desire to improve his musical skills did not stop at the National Certificate in Music. He has now embarked on a degree programme in jazz, which he hopes to complete next year. If that is not an inspiration to up-and-coming musicians, what else could be?
Charles Charamba was born on April 27, 1971 in Mudzi District. He attended primary school and secondary school at Masarakufa in Mudzi where he completed his O-Levels.
In 1998, he enrolled at the Living Waters Bible College in Tynwald, Harare. It is while he was at the Bible college that his musical career began. Although he had been singing in school choirs and did his own thing as a youngster by imitating other artistes and trying to improve on their compositions, it was at Living Waters that he started to seriously compose his own music.
He fused his genre of gospel music with sungura, jazz and jit type of music as he preferred to have his gospel messages heard in local popular sounds. That way, he felt, would attract more gospel audiences.
At first, he encountered a lot of problems trying to convince Gramma Records to accept his music.
Gramma Records insisted that Charles should adopt South African rhythms since South African gospel artistes such as Sipho Makhabane, Rebecca Malope and Vuyo Mokoena who were already selling in Zimbabwe.
Charles stuck to his guns and after a struggle it paid off as evidenced by his first release “Jehovah NdiMwari Wedu”.
This was overwhelmingly received by both the Christian community and the rest of Zimbabwe. Charles then became an instant hit. In no time at all, he had become a household name after his release of “Tinashe
Akatendeka” in 1997. In 1998, a follow-up album “Johanne 3:16” was released. This was also well received.
Another album “Exodus” also received overwhelming response in 2000. In 2001, another recording “Sunday Service” made Charles the star that he is today.
Charles has conducted regional tours with his backing group, The Fishers of Men, promoting Christianity through music. In 2000, he toured Mozambique and was called back in 2001 and 2002. Again in 2002, and 2003, he had the opportunity to tour the United Kingdom and the United States of America where he performed to different Christian communities.
His 2010 release, “Pashoko Pangoma” with popular titles such as “Nyika Zimbabwe”, “Regera Kundisiya”, “Murisimba Redu”, “Ndakauraisa” and “Jehovah Ndiye” is still topping the charts in Zimbabwe today.
Charles is married to Olivia, a gospel diva in her own right, whom he met in 1995 when she was an ordinary member of his church. It is difficult to separate the musical career of Olivia (Mai) Charamba from that of her husband Charles.
After marriage, Charles who had already established himself as a gospel singer, was impressed by his wife’s vocals. He encouraged her to join the church choir and to accompany him during recordings and live performances. Eventually, Olivia became a singer in her own right. This culminated in the release of her first album entitled “Amen” in 2000, which was followed by “Daily Bread” in 2002. During her performances and recordings, Charles became her backing vocalist. Together they have done overseas tours as well as African countries such as Mozambique..
Charles and Olivia have displayed a unique gift of performing together and separately as musicians and still remain together as husband and wife.
It is, however, confusing to state the genre of music they give us except to say it is gospel music.
- Fred Zindi is a professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a musician and an author of several books on music. He can be contacted via e-mail on [email protected]